David Lister: It’s right to relax concert rules, but try not to get carried away
A founder member of The Independent David Lister joined the paper in 1986 as Assistant Home Editor. He became the paper's arts correspondent in 1988 and is now Arts Editor and writes a column each Saturday. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.
Thursday 19 June 2014
Audience etiquette at classical music concerts has often been as fascinating to observe as the concert itself. Don’t clap between movements. Do cough between movements. Indeed, the louder the between-movements cough, the more it signals that the cougher is a music aficionado.
The studiedly radical Bristol Proms has made a determined effort to shake up classical music concert-going and encourage a young, pop audience by abolishing the old etiquette. Clap whenever you like. Have audience interaction, have pop concert-style screens (great – we will actually see the conductor’s face, for once), even have occasional lasers and light shows.
But even radicals have to rein in their lack of inhibition sometimes. Symphonic crowd-surfing feels a step too far, and a potentially dangerous one at that. Shaking up the concert tradition to encourage new audiences is a much needed change, though. Let people clap if they are enthused. Let’s have big screens. Let’s go further. How good it would be to have conductors talking to the audience and introducing the music. Great art doesn’t have to be enjoyed in silent solemnity.
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