Johnny Greenwood recently published an article about live classical music being off-putting . Johnny’s thoughts are great and a good perspective from somebody who comes from the outside of the classical music world, but who really cares about it. Over the years I’ve seen and done a lot of concerts and if classical music ever wants to attract a new, younger and more engaged audience, we’ll have to think hard about certain things and step out of our own little world (as James McQuaid writes in his article for the Guardian Culture professionals network ).
I often find myself sitting in a concert thinking I would never be here were it not for professional interest. This is a real shame, because to sit down in a concert hall and not do anything else other than listen for two hours is a great and quite radical experience in our lives. But there are many unspoken “rules” and conventions at classical concerts that we often accept quietly and which make the experience of classical concert worse than it should be.
1. The audience should feel free to applaud between movements
Gustav Mahler introduced the habit of sitting silently until the end of a piece and I think after some 100 years, it’s time to change that. I love it when people clap between movements. It’s a spontaneous expression of enjoyment and people should feel free to show their feelings in a concert.
2. Orchestras should tune backstage
There is something really exciting about hearing a great orchestra in a great hall. We shouldn’t spoil the impact of the first sounds of a piece by giving away so many of these magical sounds in a random way at the beginning of a concert. Works like the Lohengrin Prelude, Gigues or Lontano do sound strange after tuning onstage. They should emerge from complete silence.