Thursday, March 18, 2010


Last Fall, we were guests of a thoughtful business friend, who took us to the opening night of the San Francisco Symphony. I really do need a shirt with a collar one-half size larger, and my tuxedo trousers are a bit tight these days. So I'm not enthusiastic about attending Black Tie affairs, and I have even given away my expensive (but uncomfortable) patent leather shoes.
When we attend a performance by the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, I take pride in the audience's silence between movements, however exciting has been the coda to the movement. If the occasional neophyte to a concert hall starts to applaud, and then realizes she or he is "out of line", I smile to myself rather smugly: that person will soon learn good concert manners!
Initially, I was quite shocked when what seemed like half the audience at Davies Hall burst out into applause. Of course, I told myself, these are the wealthy elite, who don't come so much to listen to the music, but rather to "see and be seen".
What does a conductor do in such circumstances? I certainly think that Michael Tilson Thomas has it right. He turns to the applauding folk, smiles, and gives a little bow to acknowledge their enthusiasm.
I tell myself that these good people don't know any better; they are obviously enjoying themselves; and at least they are not booing. Nevertheless, I must admit that I don't like applause in the wrong place.
I don't often attend a professional baseball or football game these days. When the National Anthem is played at sporting events - a custom that someone told me began during WWII - 
I dislike the extravagant interpretations of some popular singers. I like my anthems played straight. Another thing that I abhor is the custom of the crowd to beginning to applaud before the Anthem has been completed.

Perhaps all this makes me a "music snob", but so be it...

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