Originally posted on my solo performance website blog, I ran across more information on this today (see UPDATE at the bottom of the page) & thought I’d pass my posting on to my MTH colleagues. What do YOU think about applause at concerts?
Over the past several weeks I have asked my colleagues in person and via Facebook and Twitter: “During the Symphony for the Schools concert this morning at the beginning the kids applauded at 4-5 places during “Ride of the Valkyries” (1st piece). They were naturally applauding high points in the music. It made me start wondering. But, by the end, they weren’t applauding but were sitting restlessly. SHOULD we be so sure of ourselves & the importance of our presentation that we don’t allow the audience to participate in one of the only acceptable ways they have – applause? I’d LOVE to continue this conversation. I know I hate not being able to hear all the nuances of the music, but are we helping put the elitist label on classical music by proscribing when audiences can submit their input on the performance?”
Here is my Facebook Summary of responses:
“It’s always been weird but like with a cycle or set applause between each song would be tedious and also be distracting to the performer. So we hold off.”
“What if they want to applaud while you’re singing, like on American Idol or Sabado Gigante?”
“Yeah that’s annoying. I hate when you can’t hear them singing.”
My Twitter responses:
“Mixed feelings — don’t want to impose rules/restrictions that will turn off new audiences. Sometimes that silence is golden. I guess they need to know it’s okay to be stunned to shout (Bravo) and stunned to silence. Yes?”
“Just wanted to totally agree with you!”
“It’s a silly custom isn’t it? Last Sat after huge standing ova I said to audience, “hope someone does that for u someday” This custom seems to have been promoted by the non-musician. Don’t you agree.”
“Good question! I read that it was a 19thC trend relating to “Kunstreligion” – not applauding = adoration/respect. it sure doesn’t help. in Mozart’s time people applauded indiv. mvmts and asked for encores!! absolutely. we need a balance between spontaneity and actually interrupting the performance …”
“But in pop music, people just sing, no problems. Abt. singing anthem in tune, etc., was it any different in past generations?”
My voice teacher‘s gut reaction is that if there is too much applause then the integrity of the performance will be lost – a lot of the musical contrasts (loud®soft) will be lost, as well as the rhythmic integrity of the music. Possibly, the crowd could get unruly as at a football game – during speeches hecklers are thrown out because they are disturbing the ability of fellow audience members to hear. There is no difference, to her, with “extraneous” (my words) applause. She concedes my point that it IS a bit of a stifling of immediate reaction, but that is NOW the tradition and should be upheld.
Stephen Hough also has a recent article that he wrote, entitled “Clap between movements? PLEASE!”
I don’t know. I’m of two minds – as a performer I want the immediate feedback, but I also want to be able to know that my performing subtleties will be heard. What do you think? What is YOUR opinion? Let me know.
UPDATE 6/29/09: Zack Hayhurst, in his blog “Artistic Discourse” tackled this subject today in his posting “Please hold your applause…until you feel compelled to do so.” His posting includes several other links to sites where you can find useful information. Enjoy!