Concert Etiquette – Bryron Belt

The performing arts season is getting into full swing. Audiences are set to enjoy the entertainment and inspiration of performing ensembles of every description.

One thing is certain: for many, the performances will be marred by thoughtlessness on the part of too many people who consider themselves good citizens. These people ignore the simple rules of courtesy, or unconsciously destroy the peaceful environment necessary for enjoyment of many of the wonderful performances being offered a generally eager and appreciative audience.

Here are some rules that should be reprinted in every concert program in America. Simple common sense and courtesy will vastly improve the serenity and happiness of sharers in the magic of the arts. (Works for Movie Theaters also).

Thou Shalt Not:

Talk. The first and greatest commandment.  Stay home if you aren’t in the mood to give full attention to what is being performed on stage. This is especially true with cell phones.  Don’t take the call.

Hum, Sing or Tap Fingers or Feet. The musicians don’t need your help, and your neighbors need silence. Learn to tap toes quietly within shoes. It saves a lot of annoyance to others, and is excellent exercise to boot.

Rustle Thy Program. Restless readers and page skimmers aren’t good listeners and greatly distract those around them.

Crack Thy Gum in Thy Neighbors’ Ears. The noise is completely inexcusable and usually unconscious.  The sight of the otherwise elegant ladies and gentlemen chewing their cud is one of today’s most revolting and anti-aesthetic experiences.

Wear Loud-Ticking Watches or Jangle Thy Jewelry. Owners are usually immune, but the percussion is disturbing to others.

Open Cellophane Wrapped Candies. Next to talking, this is the most general serious offense to auditorium peace. If you have a bad throat, unwrap your throat-soothers between acts or musical selections.  If caught off guard, open the sweet quickly. Trying to be quiet  by opening wrappers slowly only prolongs the torture for everyone around you.

Snap Open and Close thy Purse. This problem used to apply only to women, but today, men are often equal offenders.  Leave any purse or case unlatched during the performance.

Sigh With Boredom. If you are in agony, – keep it to yourself.  Your neighbor just may be in ecstasy, which also should be kept under quiet control.

Read. This is less an antisocial sin than personal deprivation.  It is typical for auditors to read program notes, skim ads and whatever. Don’t. To listen means just that. Notes should be digested before or after the music, not during. It may, however, be better for those around you to read instead of sleeping or snoring.

Arrive Late or Leave Early. It is unfair to artists and the public to demand seating when one is late or to fuss, apply make-up and depart early.  Most performances have scheduled times, try to abide by them.

There are other points, of course, and each reader will have a pet peeve we have omitted.  However, if just these were obeyed, going to performances would be the joy it was intended to be and we all would emerge more refreshed.

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Site for the Fine Arts Department of the Dedham Public Schools.
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