Concert etiquette has always been a mystery to classical newcomers. People wonder when they are allowed to clap, how much noise they should or shouldn’t make, and whether or not they are allowed to get out of their seat during the performance. There is an ongoing debate about concert etiquette–to shush or not to shush. This week, we looked at a few examples of performers shushing from the stage.
Getting Luponed: Classical Shushing from the Stage
While we all likely love music, we might prefer one style to another – jazz, classical, folk, rock, new age, and as many other varieties as there are ice cream flavors. Baskin Robbins has nothin’ on the musical world. It’s fun, it’s serious, it’s sexy, it’s brooding. It is for you, me, them, us… there really is something for everybody!
The tough part is that we all experience music in different ways. Some find it meditative while others pop in ear buds and run a race. But, in most cases, it is safe to assume that people listening do want to hear the music.
The public is highly activated by social media, tv, and the hyper-connectivity of cell phones. That being the case, it is tough to decide whether to give in to the trend and have full-scale dinner parties, dancing, and/or conversation while concerts ensue. Does a Mozart tailgate party sound fun or infuriating? Is a Chopin performance enhanced or destructed when cell phones are glowing from videoing listeners?
We looked at a few examples of shushing from the stage – two famous classical versions and one from the belting diva herself- Patti Lupone. Here is the snapshot:
The Acclaimed Canadian Tenor, Jon Vickers.
It was a loss felt throughout the classical music world when Vickers passed away in mid-2015. He was a central figure in classical vocal repertoire for decades. A giant voice with a giant personality to match, Vickers had no shortage of opinions. During a performance of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, Vickers became fed up with the incessant coughing of an audience member and bellowed during an orchestral interlude, “Shut up with your damn coughing!” Various iterations of the video footage have been viewed hundreds of thousands of times (search youtube for “John Vickers shut up”)!
Famed Broadway Broad, Patti Lupone
Known for her show-stopping powerhouse voice, she has also done some show stopping in her case, for audiences snapping photos. Most notably in 2009 while performing in the musical Gypsy when she stopped mid-song to shame a photographing listener. “Who do you think you are?” she yelled.
Most recently, Lupone got a lot of attention snatching a cell phone from a texting audience member. In a curtain speech the following night, Lupone stood in for the usual “no cell phones” announcement explaining, “I am here to ask all of you to whip out your cell phones, turn them off, and come TO the theater… It is always two or three people who wreck it for all of us. I am on your side. I do it for you.”
Dramatic Dame, Deborah Voigt
In the midst of a glorious concert in Carmel, Indiana, Deborah Voigt enamored the audience with beautiful and eclectic songs of many languages. Singing with a brilliant sound and warm welcoming sincerity, she stopped suddenly in the middle of the prelude of a German song. Looking up with a strong stare through stage lights, she questioned the loud noise being made from what seemed to be a box seat patron. Somehow, the explanation reached her that the talking was from backstage. It was clear to much of the audience that a patron who had chosen *that* moment to give commentary to his guests. Pleasant but direct, the soprano asked for quiet, nodded to her pianist to begin again, and she performed to a silenced and attentive audience.
“Can I talk? When do I clap? I need the bathroom, a lozenge, water…” The ideas run through all our heads. Classical Music Indy is working to create a balance on this topic as we continue to create casual and approachable concert environments. We do want you to take pictures and videos. Just like with life, we think you should be able to enjoy the music as you choose to experience it. Please also be sure that you are mindful to not interrupt how others choose to do the same.