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Classical 101

Performance Disruptions are Pushing Concertgoers to the Edge

Last Fall, I wrote about pianist Christian Zacharias, who stopped in the middle of the cadenza in a Haydn Concerto when a telephone began ringing...for the second time. I was looking recently at an Arts Journal website, when I noticed a number of threads about concert and theater disturbances. Most result in embarrassment (hopefully) and no repeat performance, pardon the pun. Tragically, one such incident resulted in a man's death. I, in no way condone over-reacting to such shortfalls in etiquette, but I DO sometimes wonder why some people feel that the concert hall, movie theater, or other public places are extensions of their living room?  That talking, texting, and posting on Facebook during a screening or performance is OK? We seem to have become so used to watching things in our theater-like living rooms with surround sound and giant flat screens, that we have forgotten how to do so in public, around people we do not know. Lest you think it only happens somewhere else, Dayton Philharmonic conductor Neal Gittleman stopped a performance of Debussy's Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun when one attendee's child began screaming as the opening flute solo floated over the audience.  Gittleman told the Dayton Daily News, “The very first noise that the baby made was just as the flute was beginning her solo."  The piece begins with a big, long, famous, hard, flute solo and my job at the beginning of that piece is to make the flute as comfortable as possible.â€? At first,  Gittleman pressed on, but it quickly became apparent that the parent wasn't going to leave the auditorium, so he stopped the performance and decided it was time to speak.  A week before that incident, a similar occurrence took place in New York, resulting in audience members shouting at the offender. Kevin Williamson, a writer for the National Review, was attending a musical in New York when he was pushed over the edge.  After several requests from him to "turn off your phone" were ignored, he snatched it from the offender's hands and threw it across the theater. I am waiting for the first theater manager to decided phones will be confiscated at the door and returned after the performance.  The Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village has begun confiscating phones if they ring or are used to take photos during the tournament.  Hopefully, it never comes to that in a concert hall. Watch A news story about the NY Philharmonic incident here.