Are there any customs that I need to know?
Although no special knowledge or experience is needed to enjoy an orchestral concert, certain practices have become customary: • After the orchestra is seated, the first person to come on stage is the concertmaster (the lead first violinist), who is greeted with applause and who then initiates the tuning process. Next comes the conductor (with or without soloist), who is again greeted with applause. Once the conductor has bowed and turned towards the orchestra, everyone becomes quiet so the music can begin. • Silence is the canvas on which music is experienced, so for maximum concentration and enjoyment, the audience should be as quiet as possible. In the sensitive acoustics of Walt Disney Concert Hall, even the slightest noise can be a significant distraction. What would normally go unheard in daily life (whispering, humming, tapping, turning pages, etc.) is noticed by everyone around you. Of course, mobile phones and all other electronic devices must be silenced before the performance begins. • When should I applaud? This has been the subject of much debate. The tradition for the last hundred years or so has been to clap only at the very end of a piece, no matter how many individual movements there are. (In a recital, the custom is to applaud after a group of pieces, as indicated in the program.) The purpose of waiting is to maintain an unbroken atmosphere so that the piece retains its unity and that any spell the music has cast remains unbroken. But in earlier times, it was not unusual for the audience to respond with spontaneous applause, sometimes even insisting that a movement be repeated before a piece could continue. Today, as more music lovers attend classical programs for the first time, enthusiastic applause does occasionally break out between movements. If you are worried about when to applaud, the safest course is to wait until the conductor has turned around to face the audience and everyone is clapping.