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To clap or not to clap, that is the question....

(32 Posts)
broguemum Wed 21-Jan-09 19:51:31

We went to see the Hilliard ensemble last night. They were fantastic - absolutely awesome even if the tenor did keep on yawning.

I really enjoyed the performance but was troubled by the clapping and now I have a doubt as to whether my irritation was justified or not. My understanding is that one should not clap between movements, you wait until the end of the piece and then clap. The thing is with the concert last night there were several short pieces (e.g. 5 minutes +/-) and some longer ones (approx 10 minutes) and each half was around 38 minutes in total.

It seemed to me that the pieces had been carefully selected to go together and that one should not clap in between them and so I did not and got mildly irked when people did. The clapping was also not consistent. Sometimes people would clap at the end of a piece but if it was really short sometimes they didn't hmm.

I am confused. Can someone elighten me as to the etiquette of clapping?? Was I being an oik not applauding after each piece? Was I rightly irked? Or should I just get a life and not spend time wondering about these things? TIA.

PuzzleRocks Wed 21-Jan-09 20:36:07

Bumping for you.

SoMuchToBits Wed 21-Jan-09 20:38:14

Depends on the pieces of music I think. It's generally the case that you don't clap between movements of, say, a concerto, symphony or string quartet. If the songs were a suite, I would wait until the end of the suite, but if they were individual pieces, not particularly connected, then it's a bit more complicated.

uberalice Wed 21-Jan-09 20:39:36

If the conductor signals that the work is ended, and turns round, it's time to clap. Otherwise, don't clap. If it's chamber music, without a conductor, the behaviour of the musicians should give you similar clues. Also, the programme should give you clues. If the works are numbered, you only clap at the end of each number. If movements are listed, don't clap between them.

Bink Thu 22-Jan-09 12:17:21

Where did you see the concert?

These things vary tremendously with place, I find. So <<great big snob alert>> there is all kinds of inappropriate clapping in the Proms, whereas if you go to the Wigmore everyone in the audience was born knowing the last gasp of protocol and there isn't even a sigh of pleasure or nodding head out of place.

I think if you find yourself in a place where the audience doesn't quite know what to do then you just have to roll with it. (The Proms are fun even if people do Mexican waves & things between movements.)

hanaflower Thu 22-Jan-09 12:19:23

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

georgiemum Thu 22-Jan-09 12:21:32

Generally in such instances there is a 'clapper' prompt down at the front who leads the applause. Very useful if you are unsure whether to clap or not (or boo!).

Of course, there are some people who clap when their plane lands or when the EuroStar comes out of the tunnel. Hmmm. Makes you wonder what they do after 'monkey business'.

broguemum Thu 22-Jan-09 18:24:44

Thanks to everyone for answering my question!

Do you really get a clapper to prompt audiences??? I wonder what you have to put on your CV to get a job like that?! It could be fab.

HF - The concert was at the Philharmonie in Luxembourg. I have encountered "inappropriate" applause there before but that was in the main concert hall and not the salle de musique de chambre which is where we were on Tuesday. TBH the singers did not seem at all peeved at the clapping and the whole atmosphere was relaxed and enjoyable and not at all stuffy (event though DH and I lowered the average age a good 30 years). I heartily recommend them if you're interested in that kind of music. Absolutely fab.

Katisha Thu 22-Jan-09 22:49:57

I go to a lot of concerts, and am at Proms and Wigmore Hall quite a bit. I used to get annoyed by clapping between movements etc (which you most certainly don't get at Wigmore as Bink says - they'd rather die), but now I take the view that if audience members are clapping out of genuine enjoyment and appreciation then fine.

Clapping etiquette was entirely different in previous centuries anyway and someone like Mozart would expect to have movements applauded and even encored before moving on.

But I do object to that bloke who always has to be the first to honk "Bravo" at the end of something.

And the loud coughers.

Bink Thu 22-Jan-09 22:56:35

Katisha - re Wigmore - I've probably said this before, but there was a quartet we went to see, and it was all very good and very smooth and not, I think, especially outside the box (either in repertoire terms or performance), and then (after the prescribed competitive bravo-honking) they announced they'd do an encore, and it would be such-and-such a movement of Hindemith [total change of mode]

... and a (barely audible, but for all that obviously totally-in-spite-of-itself disinhibited) whoooooo of excitement went over the whole audience

That was my favourite moment yet. (And the Hindemith lived up.)

Bink Thu 22-Jan-09 22:58:02

Oh - the point being, that when a famously restrained audience lets go, it's a really special moment.

Katisha Fri 23-Jan-09 08:29:05

I like this Matthew Parris description of the Wigmore crowd :

To a classical concert on Tuesday at the Wigmore Hall in London - classy concert, classy place, classy people: money, but sedate money, English money: 50-plus, pearls, Viyella shirts. Have you ever noticed that as a herd the English upper classes have their own smell? It's quite distinctive, a great stirring-pot of smells from clothes that are not dry-cleaned stupidly often, and hygiene routines that are sensible rather than zealous.

There is no overriding component to the mélange, more a texture: heavy, rounded, with a hint of musk and singeing. Think humidity and wool; think roses and wax-polish; gin not tonic, and aftershaves that are spicy rather than sweet. Think leather, and Labrador; well-cooked vegetables, and books with a trace of mildew. Think biscuits. Think wood. Think the smell of a Rover 90.

Bink Fri 23-Jan-09 09:52:28


But ... that is a Wigmore evening crowd. My dh, who's able to run his own working schedule, quite often does the Monday lunchtime concerts.

And there (as he reports, a bit fastidiously) it is - sandwiches (often sardine) and waxed paper; hygiene which falls a bit short of sensible (especially around the hair-washing angle); and anoraks, not quite thoroughly dried off since the previous Monday. A faint residue of pong, rather than the neutrality of smell.

DumbledoresGirl Fri 23-Jan-09 09:55:48

Love the idea of a clapper to prompt clapping. Should they not also employ a shusher to shush ill-timed applause? Broguemum could apply! wink

georgiemum Fri 23-Jan-09 11:14:50

I am sure there is such a thing as a clapper. Have you never noticed that there is usually a very loud clap coming from the front of the audience (ususally to the left) after a brief pause when the music stops? A bit like the little old lady that prompts the prayers at a latin mass funeral.

They do need a finger-slapper for sweetie paper wrustlers and crisp eaters.

Katisha Fri 23-Jan-09 11:43:24

Aha Bink - I am often there on Monday lunchtimes - I shall play spot the likely -looking MN DH!

Bink Fri 23-Jan-09 12:35:25

Dh is middle-sized, with brown floppy hair, large very blue eyes and (currently) a piratical beard; 'dapper' describes him well.

He would be very very amused by being challenged as a typical MN DH. I dare you to!

jura Fri 23-Jan-09 12:42:37

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

DumbledoresGirl Fri 23-Jan-09 13:07:35

I always thought that the person you hear starting off the clapping is the show-off music buff anxious to show he knows the music has ended. wink

Usually me in very amateur settings eg the school hall.wink

lucasnorth Fri 23-Jan-09 13:38:30

A little off subject, but I was at a matinee of Bayadere at the Royal Opera House last week and people were TALKING during the inter-act scene changes, despite the fact that the orchestra was still playing!! I was completely shock. If it had been kids whispering to their parents then fair enough - that's a hazard of a matinee - but this was full-volume adult conversation.

And there was a memorable final few minutes of Traviata which was almost drowned out by audience coughs; after a few minutes I gave up being annoyed and told myself they were just so into the piece they were getting psychosomatic (sp?) consumptive symptoms.

Have to say clapping doesn't bother me that much though; only when it's done before the final note has died away when it does break the mood

Katisha Fri 23-Jan-09 13:45:53

Yes I don't mind if people don't know concert etiquette and clap in the wrong places - I'd rather classical music was not seen as some sort of secret society where you have to know the rules. But stuff like talking while the music is on is just plain rude. And the coughing can really get out of hand. But then when they are all holding it in there is a huge barrage of hacking between movements.

<Accepts Bink's challenge but wonders whether Mr Bink can't hold up a fruit shoot or something to make identification easier. I won't be at next week's but will be at the Andreas Staier one on 2nd Feb...>

broguemum Fri 23-Jan-09 20:08:10

I once saw a conductor turn around and give some rouge clappers (not brogue clappers wink) the look of death. I almost felt sorry for them.

They were being very irritating though - clapping whilst the violinists had their bows to the strings and obviously looking to the conductor for their cue. Can't for the life of me remember who it was though - some Russian bloke who usually plays the violin but he'd hurt his shoulder and so was conducting instead IIRC. I tell you though, if the looks he gave out had been directed at me I would have left at the interval and never come back!

jessia Fri 23-Jan-09 20:20:36

I went to a wonderful concert recently by a French orchestra (I live in a provincial Central European city). After the end of the first movement of the symphony they were playing, the whole audience was dying to clap because it was really rather good, but you could actually see us all being oh-so-knowledgeable and sitting on our hands. I think the French conductor (phwoar) could tell, and he held the orchestra under his baton for what seemed like absolutely ages before he let them "shuffle"... and then he turned round and lifted one playful eyebrow at us, kind of provoking us. So a few very confused types started clapping, at which he put on a Mary Poppins face and held up his finger - and then gave us a huge grin, turned round to the orchestra again and prepared for the 2nd movt. Maybe you had to be there but I'll never forget it.
I tell you he got amazing applause at the end.

broguemum Fri 23-Jan-09 20:29:13

Maxim Vengarov! He was scarywink.

SoMuchToBits Fri 23-Jan-09 20:29:18

Lol, the "clappers" at an amateur concert are usually relatives of someone playing/singing in the concert.

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