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Things you need to know before going to your first classical concert
- Alex Johnston
- 5 September 2017
From dress code to phone use, we round up essential tips for your first live classical music experience
You're a music fan. You love all kinds of genres, from hip hop to pop, to rock, reggae and EDM. But classical? That's something you don't understand.
If that sounds like you, never fear. Classical music concerts may seem forbidding and unfamiliar but in fact, they're places of wonder and inspiration. If you're a music-lover who wants to have your first classical concert experience, Scottish Chamber Orchestra's 2017–18 season is a great place to start. Here's a handy guide so you know what to expect.
What makes a classical concert different from other kinds of concert?
Classical concerts are all about exquisite music. Certainly, there can be an element of showmanship – but in general, they're nothing like a big stadium gig or a festival. People are quieter and more attentive than you might be used to, even at an intimate singer-songwriter gig.
But trust us: classical music fans know how to make a big noise and show their appreciation in style. At the end of any classical concert, there is usually a lot of clapping. After the ending of Beethoven's Fifth, it's hard not to want to punch the air and shout 'Hell, yeah!'. It would actually be cool if someone did that, but if you do, you'll get some very odd looks. Better off just applauding.
What happens at a classical concert?
There's a ritual. First, the audience files in and takes their seats. Then, the performers on stage enter in a certain order: if it's an orchestral work, the bulk of the musicians will come on, then the orchestra leader (principal first violinist), who gets the orchestra to tune up. Then the soloist enters, if there is one, and bows; and then the conductor comes on, because no matter who else is appearing, the conductor is the boss.
Is it okay to use my phone during a performance?
Look at it this way: you've come all the way to this venue to hear a concert of great music being played by skilled musicians, especially for you (and, all right, everyone else in the audience.) Could you not put yourself beyond external communication for a couple of hours, and turn that baby off? Like, off off? You can always turn it on at the end if you want to take a picture of everyone bowing.
What happens if someone makes a mistake?
Thanks to all that practice, they can usually recover. In 1999, the great pianist Maria Joao Pires was onstage in Amsterdam for a Mozart piano concerto, and when the music started she realised that she'd learned the wrong piece. After literally facepalming for several minutes, she pulled herself together and played the correct one. From memory.