Last week, when at a concert in the Royal Festival Hall, I found myself in
conversation with a music lover who was bemoaning an ever-decreasing quality in
the behaviour of British concert audiences and who, as a result, suggested all
manner of punitive measure that could be taken to make sure that people like
her could enjoy a performance. I was intrigued by her suggestions and this
month have produced a manifesto for the new government, and would urge all
readers to write to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport,
suggesting that he make at least a few of them law.
- Take only such essential items as tickets, car keys and money for drinks in
the interval (in which case, you might not even need the car keys). Items such
as small curious children, or anyone who keeps hold of the remote control
whilst watching the television, should be safely put away in cupboards or
behind sofas prior to leaving home. In no circumstances should such
inessentials be considered chic apparel.
- In today's communication-driven society, fashion accessories such as mobile
phones should be switched off. There is nothing more embarrassing than having
someone ring you in the middle of the Adagio of Mahler 5, even if the ring tone
proudly proclaims your musical knowledge by spouting the opening bars of The
Ride of the Valkyries, Bach's fugue in d minor or some aria from Cosi
fan tutte. Phones with a vibrator option are also a no-no…the lady next to
you will be convinced that you are concealing a wasp on your person and will
attempt to swat you with her programme, which, if you're at a Proms concert,
might prove to be a painful experience.
- Sweets are only going to give you dental cavities, and everyone around you
headaches: as you quietly unwrap a boiled sweet, remember that although you
might have it shoved up the dark recesses of your jumper (accumulating fluff
and dust along the way, thereby increasing the possibilities of developing
asthma at a later date), to even the hard-of-hearing little old lady at the
front of the stalls it is going to sound like the changing of the guards on a
bed of cornflakes. Small curious children will want to know what flavour you're
eating and, inevitably, the guy who holds the remote control will loudly
- As above, but for crisps. I remember at a somewhat odd concert given by a
group like the Cleckheaton Women's 15 Symphony Orchestra, a mother gave her
daughter a packet of Smokey Bacon crisps to help pass the time.
MusicTeachers.co.uk disapprove not only of the flavour, but also the sound made
by the rustling crisp packet and the ensuing ministrations of mastication. If
you have to eat, then take a Big Mac, 'cos they don't cause any noise at all,
unless you have small curious children with you, who will make aeroplanes from
- Do not, in any circumstances, eat spicy food such as Chicken Tikka Masalas
prior to the performance: the emission of wind should be left to the orchestra
alone. Small curious children will laugh out loud, so there's no point in
hoping that the concert hall's acoustics will carry the sound elsewhere.
- Do eat before a performance (unless, of course, it's a Chicken Tilkka
Masala) since the rumblings of a stomach are quite off-putting for those around
you. If you have small curious children with you, threaten them with being
eaten alive if they continue to make aeroplanes from the Big Mac wrapper.
Try not to breathe – especially if you are (a) Darth Vader, (b) emphysematous,
(c) asthmatic, (d) have catarrh, (e) a cold, (f) the flu, (g) are generally
inclined to fill your lungs to their fullest capacity as you breathe along with
the singer. If your children have colds, then don't give them the Big Mac,
since stuffing their mouths full will require them to breathe through their
noses, thus causing a degree of distress to those around you and ruining the
opening of Mahler 1.
- Please don't die: there is nothing more distracting than watching someone
being carried off by ambulance men, or having heart massage during the second
movement of Mahler 2 – it might be known as the 'Resurrection Symphony', but
its power is considerably weakened by small curious children who like to give
each other, and the lady sitting immediately to their right, electric shocks.
If you do die, then please make sure that you do so during the last ten minutes
of The Pines of Rome, when no one will notice the headless-chicken
routines of the ushers, or during any poor performance, when everyone will want
to notice the headless-chicken routines of the ushers.
- Never clap between the movements of a multi-section work, such as Mahler 8,
since you will only confirm to those around you that you and your small curious
children should've all stayed at home.
- At rock concerts, you can do as you want.