23. November 2008 · 7 comments · Categories: BQOD

During intermission, I overheard someone behind me say, “Just think of how much rehearsal they had to go through to do this.”

I have no place to criticize how that person enjoys music, but this is just something that annoys me about classical music audiences: they give points for effort. These are audiences that prefer bad tenors to good tenors because you get to see the bad tenor really try. Is this an expression of love for the underdog? I don’t know, but forgiveness for bad singing is given so freely, based on how long it took to learn to sing badly. It’s the kind of thing that makes me think the audience isn’t really listening, and is just watching to see someone do something.

I read this at a blog I just found today.


  1. Is it just the last few days (I didn’t look back any further) or are this person’s posts always negative in tone? Of course, “Mal Canto” being the title of the blog, perhaps that’s the purpose: to expose what’s bad (particularly about vocal performance and the teaching of it)? Anyway, I guess the audience comment pushed some buttons with the blogger, but taken in context (at a school performance) it doesn’t seem all that heinous to me. Everyone experiences music differently; particularly at a school concert, not everyone is going to have the musical background to appreciate things on a high aesthetic level. It doesn’t mean they don’t (or shouldn’t) enjoy them on whatever basis they are judging. Yes, it is somewhat frustrating to me when an audience doesn’t seem to appreciate what magnificent artistry is going on, and just finds it pleasant; I find it less distressing somehow if things aren’t going so well but the audience doesn’t seem to notice or mind.

    But maybe *I* am just being negative this morning.

  2. I think perhaps the blog is written by some disenchanted folks, but maybe if I read more of it I will decide I’m wrong.

    I’m not sure I’ve ever met someone who prefers a bad tenor over a good one. I’ve certainly disagreed with audience members (and orchestra members) over who is good and who is bad, but I’ve never heard anyone say, “I prefer that bad tenor …”. Then again, I’ve only lived in one place all my lief, and maybe those in New York are different?

    In any case, I don’t really like to comment on BQODs. I just post ’em. And I know it gives the blogger(s) some hits on occasion … so I guess we can think of it as a public service. 😉

  3. PS Are you EVER negative, dk? YOU?! 😉

  4. I attended a performance of a well-known musical yesterday, and while I won’t mention the group or the show, I will say that I was, unfortunately, completely distracted by the horn player’s…ah…let’s say, “sub-optimal” performance.

    It’s very likely (heck very-much-extremely likely) that maybe only two other people noticed, but for me it was quite frustrating. I don’t know why, exactly, but this player’s tone (which was pretty good, actually) never seemed to blend well – to me it really stuck out, and intonation was…well, not stellar (although it did improve). Plus the usual mix of biffed notes and sloppy passages and strained (or missed) high notes that cause people to say “I LOVE the sound of the French horn – when it’s played well” (I’ve never heard that without the caveat). The worst part is, I consider it to be one of the easiest horn parts around, show-wise.

    Since it was an amateur production, I suppose I should be more charitable, and with the singers I was (although many of the leads were outstanding) – the oboist did an excellent job, for example, as did the rest of the orchestra.

    So is that just because I’m holding the horn player up to the same standard to which I’d hold myself (I’m not saying I’d achieve it)? The other pit denizens were certainly at or above my personal standard.

  5. I’ve never seen that blog before until today on oboeinsight. It’s hard to know where to start! They actually think that hip-hop audiences are more knowledgeable about their music? No audiences are ever going to be as informed as the people performing. I could sit on stage and do nothing, as long as I wasn’t playing principal, and no average audience member, probably not even the conductor would notice much. I’ve worked with a lot of singers professionally, and you know when the audience isn’t digging it! But if they’d prefer brutal honesty, they should announce to the audience before their performance that they should Boo and Hiss at anything they don’t like. Encourage them! I don’t think any classical musician would last long under those circumstances. It’s a demanding enough art and not all that rewarding monetarily. The classical world, unlike the pop world, is full of very good performers who get zero credit for the hours of prep it takes to do what we do. So someone appreciates it even when it’s not so great; learn to live with it. I guarantee, there are leaner days to come.

  6. Okay … rambling silly comments … not sure how much sense this will make!

    Tim, now of course I wanna know what you went to and who played oboe! 🙂

    I have heard people in other music genres talk in ways that are incredibly knowledgeable, reeddaddy. (Including my son.)Some people really do know their music. Some in the classical audience know a heck of a lot more than I. I’m somteimes quite humbled. Or embarrassed.

    Where do you play that conductors wouldn’t notice if you, as an oboist, weren’t playing? That’s pretty amazing. Yikes!

    Um … about booing and hissing … they do that all the time at La Scala. They’ve done it elsewhere too. I think I read about having that happen in New York too (?). Would I be able to deal with it? I dunno! Kind of doubtful. But I’m wimpy.

    As much as I whine, I’ve never gone hungry, aside from one week or two I’ve never gone on unemployment, and I guess I feel like I’m doing fine monetarily. So I guess I can’t relate to that one, for which I’m very thankful. 🙂

  7. I don’t mind praising people on an open forum, but unfortunately now that I’ve complained about one performer I am reluctant to name the other (hope that makes sense).

    I guess I was just assuming that people tend to focus on things they are familiar with – for example, for one show with the same group I found the horn player distracting me for the opposite reason – he (David Dufour – Hi David, if you ever see this) absolutely nailed it, playing such that he was really enhancing what the people on stage were doing, bringing out solos appropriately and performing as a part of the orchestra. I’m pretty sure no one else in the audience was thinking “Wow, he played that accent perfectly!” (but the horn players reading this will understand, I bet).

    Isn’t that the case, that we tend to hear our own instruments? Or am I even weirder than I thought (well, that hardly seems possible, but…)?