Whether you’re a longtime fan of classical music or are just beginning to learn about the genre, one of the best ways to experience it is by attending the symphony. If you plan to attend your first symphonic concert, you should keep the following tips in mind to enjoy the best possible experience.
Show up on time
At a symphonic performance, showing up on time generally means arriving at least a half an hour before the show is scheduled to begin. Arriving 30 minutes early will give you enough time to explore the concert hall, find refreshments, pick up a program, and find your seat before the show begins. Conversely, showing up late to the symphony often means that you will be required to wait in the lobby during the show until an usher can find an appropriate point in the program to lead you to your seat.
Don’t leave your cellphone on
A symphonic performance is an immersive experience, but audience members can easily become distracted and unable to focus on the show when those around them use cell phones and other electronic devices. To avoid the risk of spoiling the performance for yourself and others, turn your cell phone off completely before the show begins, and check for messages during intermission, if needed. If you are a professional who works in emergency medicine or need to have your phone turned on for any reason, many concert halls are happy to have an usher hold your device for you and quietly alert you in the event that you receive any urgent calls or messages.
Do wear comfortable clothes
Traditionally, symphony musicians have been required to wear formal black tie or white tie dress. The audience, however, is free to dress in any manner they choose, in most cases. While the dress code may vary depending on the standards set by individual concert halls, many establishments simply suggest that guests wear clothing that is comfortable. Many people see symphonic performances as a special occasion and an opportunity to dress in more refined clothing than usual, with many opting for business casual or cocktail party-style dress. Always check with the concert hall ahead of time in order to ensure there are no specific clothing requirements. Otherwise, you should dress in clothes that make you feel positive and that will not be uncomfortable to sit in for several hours.
Don’t distract others from the performance
Once a performance begins, it is crucial that audience members refrain from any activities that may cause a disturbance or distract other patrons. The acoustics of most symphony halls are designed to naturally amplify the sounds of the instruments. An unfortunate side effect is that the acoustics may also make even the smallest sounds seem much louder than normal. While the musicians are playing, you should try to avoid coughing, unwrapping candy or cough drops, singing, humming, or frequently shifting in your seat. Above all, it is of vital importance that you refrain from talking during a concert, even at a whisper. Talking is considered to be poor manners and is disrespectful to both the musicians playing the instruments and the audience members around you.
Do clap at the appropriate moments
The first time you attend the symphony, it can be challenging to try to identify the appropriate moments to clap. In general, applause is expected only after the completion of a full piece of music, which can be difficult to discern, as most full pieces are broken down into smaller segments known as “movements.” During a performance, there may be a quick break of 15 to 30 seconds between each movement, and the audience is only expected to clap after the last one, when the piece truly ends. You may be able to identify when to clap by following along with these movements in the symphony program. If you remain unsure of when to applaud, it is best to follow the lead of the other patrons and join in with the rest of the audience after the applause begins.
Don’t take pictures during the performance
While this is not always the case, most concert halls ask guests to leave their cameras and video cameras at home. Using a camera or a recording device during the performance takes you out of the moment and prevents you from enjoying the music the way that the conductor intends. It can also be yet another distraction to those around you.
Do take advantage of intermission
When the concert has an intermission, you should take the opportunity to use the restroom, speak briefly to others, and purchase refreshments. Using these 15 to 20 minutes wisely will reduce the likelihood that you will need to get up from your seat during the second half of the performance. Additionally, it will mentally refresh you so that you are better able to concentrate on the rest of the concert. Be on the lookout for signs that the intermission is nearing its end, such as flashing lobby lights or the doors to the concert hall being reopened. Make sure to head back to your seat as soon as you see these signs out of respect for the performers and the other audience members.