The experience of seeing a great orchestra or chamber group perform live is a potentially powerful, even religious experience. Unfortunately, most concert halls have all the energy of a geriatric home, and are just as sterile. Here are some things the folks at Lincoln Center and Carnegie might want to try:

1) Lose the tuxes and replace them with something more contemporary (i.e., black suits and shirts)
2) Amplify the sound so that listeners in the rear of the orchestra and balcony have the same aural experience as those in the $100+ seats
3) Offer open seating at select concerts
4) Allow patrons to take pictures during curtain calls and at intermission (without flash)
5) Dim the house lights and use stage lighting, or even projections
6) Generate buzz through blogs, message boards and other forms of word-of-mouth marketing
7) Encourage applause between movements
8) Play more non-dead composers
9) Sell CDs for no more than $10
10) Ditch the stagehands;/blockquote>
I wonder how many of you can guess which I like and which I don’t. Hmmm.

I found the list here.


  1. yeesh! I will now noisily agree with some points but not others:
    I dislike the amplify one, who cares about taking pictures, and $10 CDs? who does that? I mean, sure it would be nice to have cheap CDs but are they expecting pop-rock musicians to likewise lower their prices (and allow pictures, and have cheap seats)? perhaps our music just so cruddy that we have to make concessions for people to deign to
    see it ; )

    Applause between movements makes sense sometimes, (the silence, and the shushing, can get a bit out of hand; some endings of movements seem to call for applause!) but it’s silly to actively encourage it all the time.

    why ditch the stagehands? where does that come from? there are a lot of things to keep track of.

    the lighting comment is also confusing–what does it mean by stage lighting? and if by projections it means movie screens, that’s already happened, with mixed results (interesting, but also distracting, and quite frequently unflattering to the performers)

    and the non-dead composers thing is only good if it’s sincere. too many token “new work!” concerts leave audiences cold, too.

    I still think it’s mostly a psychological problem. people think sometimes that they should like it, or they don’t give it a chance, or they assume that all “classical” music is alike. ‘Cause in the end, if I don’t like the band it won’t matter what they’re wearing or how it’s all set up or that the tickets were cheap.

    heh…I may have rambled; my apologies.

  2. i agree on the all-black and the online buzz. lots of places do have open seating sometimes. ixnay on the lights, though, and DEFINITELY no amps. that defeats the purpose. i don’t know about applause between movements. i don’t like it, but i also don’t think that people should be made to feel stifled and uncomfortable, and if allowing them to clap between movements relieves that tension, then so be it. perhaps if it would really affect the piece to clap at the wrong times, the program could indicate appropriate silences.

  3. I think the “death of classical music” (DOCM) crowd makes far too much of concert dress and applause etiquette. Yes, the “white-tie/tails” is a bit old-fashioned, but it does seem good to have some sort of concert uniform. We would not want to see baseball teams in blue jeans and t-shirts. We prefer to see them looking like a team.

    As for the applause between movements, sometimes it works, sometimes it does not. This has always been the “rule”, a good conductor (or chamber ensemble) can give some signals on that by their posture and demeanor. I would not care for a huge burst of applause just before the last movement of Mahler #4… but there are other places where enthusiasm could rule.

    Is the original poster suggesting a big lighted “Applause” sign over the stage? How would you “encourage applause”?

    I HATE turning down hall lights, because I like to look at program notes from time to time. (so, sue me!)

    Sometimes it seems like the DOCM crowd is trying to write a manual for “correct” concert presentation. Which is what we don’t need!

    Amplification is usually a bad idea — even though it’s a lot more common in concert halls than many of us think.

  4. Okay … I’m ready to jump in on a few things now …

    I’d actually love to nix the tails. It’s not only outdated, but, from what my colleagues tell me, they aren’t terribly comfortable on a hot stage! I see no problem with all black. I certainly don’t want a free for all (musicians, like the rest of the world, can have bad taste in clothing). I just don’t see why the men can’t wear solid black like the women. (Besides, it’s easier to keep clean! 🙂

    Amplification? Stupid idea.

    Lighting? Geesh. How distracting it can be! When we used to do the prostitution um … pops concerts and they changed the lights for “mood lighting” it was just annoying and goofy. The music can set the mood. We don’t need red or blue lights to tell the audience what to feel. (Besides, it made for difficulty in reading our parts!)

    Clapping? Heck. Sometimes a fiery first movement just screams for applause. I’m okay with that. Just don’t ruin something like, say, a slow, quiet ending sort of thing by jumping in. Silence is a wonderfully powerful thing.

    I do think that the old school and the new school each think they hold the answers. I’m not sure either “side” is entirely correct. Just stubborn. 🙂