From the Church to the Concert Hall, and Back Again | Etiquette | Gift

200905012022.jpgInteresting piece on Radio 4’s arts flagship Front Row this evening, concerning etiquette at classical concerts. There has been some consternation among the classical faithful that a new breed of concert-goers are filling the seats, and they simply don’t know when to applaud.

Etiquette has it that one doesn’t at the end of movements, only at the end of whole pieces. When asked what the history of this convention was, one composer noted that it ‘had arisen during the 1920s, when music began to move from the church to the concert hall, and the piety of the church came with it.’ When to stand, when to sit, where the hell we are in the prayer book – church-going does nothing if not refine your sense of when the right time to do something is.’

What’s lovely about this is that we’re seeing a reversal: the concert hall has become the church: 30 or 40 years after churches became worried about trendy new people coming in and spoiling the altar cloth, it’s the grand classical halls that are now worried about ruffians ignorant of convention. What’s been their response? To offer an ‘alternative service’ – check out the ‘Night Shift’ concerts given by The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.

Whatever our position, this asks the question of all of us: what is our reaction to those who receive in a different way to us? Music, worship, art and gifts. Is our mode of reception preventing others from sharing?


See also from the archives: ‘On Music


3 responses to “From the Church to the Concert Hall, and Back Again | Etiquette | Gift”

  1. Daniel

    And now some of the really dead churches are hosting the cool indie concerts. It’s the circle of life!

  2. John L

    I’ve engineered and/or produced live classical orchestral recordings for almost 20 years. On some occasions, after a particularly brilliant movement, I’ve seen audiences break into spontaneous applause. Great classical music inspires the soul, a hallmark of which is joyous spontaneity.

  3. Same thing happening in London – some of the most interesting concert spaces are in churches. Not that they are abandoned, but are having to re-think their use. John – this is what one commentator said on the piece. She is a lead violin, and was convinced of music’s unique ability to bypass rational thought and engage and play directly with people’s emotions. So, as you say, it get directly to the soul, and applause can be spontaneous.