Slightly OT: music etiquette

Some friends gave me a pair of their season tickets to the symphony the other night, and it was a delightful evening of Strauss, Bernstein, and Brahams (his angsty first piano concerto). This should go without saying at this point in civilization but from I hear (quite literally) it needs to be repeated a little bit frikkin more. When you’re at a concert (or movie):

1. Turn off your cell phone.

1a. If your cell phone does ring, be very ashamed and humiliated and hope that you live long enough to repay all the bad cosmic debt you racked up in the process, but for the love of Romantic piano concertos everywhere, don’t just let it ring. If you can’t find it in your handbag or jacket pocket, stomp or punch in the general vicinity until it stops. Buying a new cellphone is a fraction of the price you should have to pay. Don’t pretend it’s not you; we all know the truth. You weren’t listening or you were late or you’re just inconsiderate and you didn’t turn your ringer off. Honestly.

I know it’s prohibitively troublesome to put cellphone jammers in concert halls, but I don’t think it’s too draconian to do a high-tech version of what happens at the U.S. Capitol these days: you surrender your pager or phone to the guard desk before entering the House or Senate chamber, you’re given a number and an attendant will come get you if ask them to when your phone rings. Why not up the octane on this idea a bit and give a house pager to those people who need one – doctors and other on-call professionals and people with sufficiently exigent circumstances (sufficiently, because if you can get to the symphony, life can’t be that exigent at the moment). If it goes off, you get up and go check it. Not perfect but better than hearing that annoying default ringtone for Cingular phones bleat on and on. Just when you think that’s the last one … DEN-UH-nuhnuh, DEN-UH-nuhnuh, DEN-UH-nuhnuh nuh.

2. Don’t wear jangly bangles to a classical music event. I attended a musical recently where there was a hardcandy wrapper scourge. But the woman behind me had on one of those sets of a dozen or so thin brittle arm bracelets that clanged like wind chimes every time she breathed and put any hardcandy wrapper to shame as noise pollution goes. It’s Brahams for piano and orchestra, not piano and metal arm jewelry. At least that’s what I told her with my dirty looks.

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  1. John wrote:

    Amen! Performance etiquette, whether it’s a classical concert, a community play, or a gospel concert, has gone down the tubes.

    No matter how badly I would like to escape yet another ear shattering version of “Oh What a Savior”, my respect for the performers will not allow me to leave my seat once the song has begun. I just have to suffer and bear it.

  2. quartet-man wrote:

    I have one that is even worse. If you don’t know it, I am a church music director and accompanist. As I was sitting up in the choir loft and the pastor was preaching a guy on about the third row (who I think had been unchurched, but had come to our church a few times) got a cell call. He answers it and talked to the person (not whispering either). He told them he was at church, but had a conversation of at least a few sentences with them while the pastor continued preaching before he hung up.

  3. jb wrote:

    We have a real problem at our church with cell phones. We are a small congregation, 75-100, and if you really address the problem someone is going to get mad. Nearly every Sunday or Wed. someones phone goes off or you can hear it vibrate because they leave it lay in the seat. Usually it is their family who is calling. Do they not know you are in church…..HELLO……
    We leave our phone in the car. Our organist received a phone call one evening and she came down from the organ and told them she couldn’t talk she was in church. We’ve had them go off in the middle of prayer. I think we need to announce it from the pulpit and put a note in the bulletin. How did we make it all these yrs. without cell phones???

  4. Rod wrote:

    I am a performer and I absolutely hate when a cell phone goes off when I am singing or speaking. Most of the time I stop and look right at the person and wait till it’s finished and then asking “Is it off this tme”. I have gotten sme flack from the pastors about me “Embarassing” them publicly. My response…Good for them…They should be embarassed…They might think twice or leave the stupid thing at home. Ok I’m getting angry now…BYE!

  5. thom wrote:

    Our Pastor has a rule about cell phones in church, If your phone rings you make a $100 donation to the missions fund! That has just about eliminated phones ringing during church.

    Whenever I am emceeing a concert or event, I always try to remember to ask people to turn their phones off. Most people are glad to do so if you remind them. I don’t worry about it hurting someone’s feelings (as a previous commenter said), they should thank me for possibly saving them the embarrassment of having it ring during the service.

    We were talking about this issue today when I was getting my hair cut. The bigger problem is that we have an entire generation of people that have always had a cell phone and who have absolutely no manners about when and where to use them.

    Oh, Amy Vanderbilt, where are you when we need you?

  6. Mary wrote:

    I’ve seen a singer’s phone ring WHILE he was singing! It’s happened in my group, it’s happened to other groups, it’s happened during concerts, it’s even happened during altar calls! Drives me nuts anytime someone is inconsiderate enough in church or at a sing to shut the phone off.Can’t we remove ourselves from it long enough to show some respect to those singing for the LORD?

  7. RF wrote:

    Once I was attending a classical concert and the orchestra was playing the soft passages in Beethoven’s 6th Symphony. All at once, a middle-aged gentleman jump up, fist pointing skyward and yelled, “AwwwRight!!!”

    Upon further investigation, he had an earphone in his left ear and was listening to a ball game. Apparently his wife had drug him to the concert.

    Needless to say, he was embarrassed, the conductor was upset and the crowd was perplexed.

    Sometimes the only way to teach someone a lesson in etiquette is to embarrass them. Or have them embarrass themselves.

  8. Big Ken 54 wrote:

    I’ve seen this happen, also: a person in the concert audience places a call on their cell phone, and then holds the phone up toward the singers so that the person they called can hear the singing. What is your opinion of this?

  9. jb wrote:

    Well Big Ken: I guess I see nothing wrong with this because I did that recently. My 20 yr. old son was disappointed because we were going to a concert to hear a favorite of his and he had to be gone due to his golfing in college. He heard most of the concert while he was in his motel room. Our phone did not ring and we did not talk. He just listened….Also, we did not hold the phone up.

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