Tuesday, October 15, 2013

When to clap

When we attend a symphony concert, the program shows the estimated time of performance, and the various movements are listed. I still prefer the customary silence between movements, despite those who have written that we should not suppress the enthusiasm of those who feel moved to express their pleasure. I applaud when the concerto or symphony is concluded. Because Barbara's multi-talented daughter, Laurie Lewis, is mainly (but "not strictly") a bluegrass musician, I attend a lot of concerts in which any solo section of a song or instrumental piece is applauded during the music, a custom that I believe originated in performances of jazz, I have trained myself to join in, if so moved. We also attend many Early Music performances, in which the individual works are often much briefer. Good program notes show where a break between items is appropriate for applause, and when it is not. One can tell by the layout of the page, with white space indicating the breaks, or possibly a dividing line between "sets". Different "movements" are usually delineated by Italian terms, such as Allegro, Adagio, Andante, and Largo. Sometimes there are breaks in the middle of short movements. (One needs to keep alert in order to follow the words, with English translations printed alongside 18th Century Italian, Spanish, French, or German. Having some French and a smattering of the other European languages, I enjoy attempting to translate the texts in my head before looking at the translations.) If the breaks between sets are not apparent, the best guide to the break is apparent from the body language of the performers. I continue to abhor the practice of starting to applaud before the music has ended, a particularly common practice when the National Anthem is sung before the start of a football game. .

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