About Life in Flow:Flow in Life

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Applause, Encore

 I wrote about applause previously, from the standpoint of how musicians react to applause. Earlier this week Mark Caro wrote an interesting article in the Chicago Tribune titled Claptrap: When to Clap or Not to Clap at Concerts. Two days later, the Trib published reader responses to Claptrap. Basically the problem with applause is that on the one hand audiences oftentimes don't know when it's appropriate or traditional to applaud at classical concerts and so some audience members clap between movements. On the other hand, conductors and performers are often creating a continuous emotional thread through an entire piece of music, which is interrupted by applause between movements. Complicating this is the need for new audience members to support classical music. This means drawing them into a rewarding concert experience and not making them feel like bumpkins for not knowing when to applaud. A further annoyance is the inevitable audience member who wants to be the first to applaud or shout bravo and frequently ruins the mood that the performers have created. This is especially true when the musical work ends very softly.

I don't have an answer, only a couple of thoughts. When I attended Fearless Performance Camp with Jeff Nelsen a few summers ago, he stressed the importance of connecting with your audience. In the Canadian Brass, he said, when people applaud between movements, the quintet members look at the audience, smile and nod in acknowledgement. The idea that Jeff repeated was that audience members want to thank you, and performers should graciously accept thanks and compliments. This doesn't answer the problem of the mood-disrupters. I do wonder if that kind of concert-goer is really getting the full impact of the music.

My other thought on applause concerns our up and coming audiences. I teach in an elementary school and sometimes we have assemblies with performances of various types. I have noticed recently that quite a few young students don't applaud. They have enjoyed the performance, but they just sit looking at the stage while people around them applaud. They continue to do this even after pep talks by me, their teacher. My theory is that kids have spent an awful lot more time watching things on screens than live, and so they act like a live performance is a screen. I made progress with my students this year and more of them are applauding now.

Has anyone come up with solutions to these dilemmas?