Friday, September 3, 2010

First Concert Primer

Have you ever thought you would like to attend a classical music concert but felt you lacked some secret knowledge necessary to fully appreciate the experience? For most people, what they are actually feeling is fear – fear of the unknown and fear of behaving inappropriately in an unfamiliar setting. I want to give you some basic information that will equip you to confidently attend a classical concert and make the experience more enjoyable.

Plan to be seated 15 minutes prior to the start of the performance. Attending a concert is not like going to the movies; previews for upcoming presentations won't appear before the start of the evening's show. If you arrive late, you will not be permitted to find your seat until there is a break in the concert. In many scenarios, this will mean that you will miss the first piece in its entirety.

Arriving early affords you many benefits. First, you are able to take notice of all the visual stimulation in the concert hall before the performance begins. Since musical performances require the audience to depend heavily upon their sense of hearing, previously unnoticed visual images can become a distraction during the performance. The second benefit of arriving early is that you will be able to read the program notes included in the recital's program. These notes are intended to provide you with biographical information about the artists as well as the composers whose works you will hear. Occasionally you will find historical background about the pieces performed as well. Don't feel pressured to remember everything the notes contain and don't feel inept if you don't understand everything you read. Understanding music is a life-long pursuit. The good news is that you don't have to necessarily UNDERSTAND it to ENJOY it.

Turn off your electronics. Nothing is more embarrassing or more frustrating than trying to find a ringing cell phone that is competing with the musical strains coming from the stage. That noisy phone will insure that you get nasty glares from the other audience members sitting near you. The best practice is to turn it off since the transmitted waves can interfere with the auditorium's sound system; if you MUST have it on, make sure that it is on silent.

Dress comfortably. Many times we see images of women wearing extravagant gowns and men in tuxedos going to the opera. While there are formal occasions in the musical world when such attire is appropriate, they are not the norm. Simply dress comfortably for the event – considering both fashion and physical comfort. In nearly every social situation, it is just as uncomfortable to be over-dressed as it is to be under-dressed. In American society, most audience members find that business casual attire is appropriate for their concert experience.

Physical comfort is also an important consideration. Temperature can often be difficult to predict. Performance halls may be considerably cooler than other public areas or you may find that the close proximity with other audience members results in a greater level of warmth than you expected. Dressing in layers – such as jackets or sweaters – is a great way to insure you are prepared for whatever temperature you encounter.