Concert Manners and Free Speech, Vol. 5, Issue 13

Dear Etiquetteer:Would you care to say anything about those pretentious people who have to be the first ones to clap as soon as the orchestra has concluded a piece? I was at a concert recently conducted by [insert name of Internationally Distinguished Conductor here] where someone was so eager to start clapping that the rest of us in the audience never had a chance to enjoy that brief pause when the sound of the music gradually dies away. Surely there is a way to stop this behavior, Etiquetteer?Dear Disconcerted:Pretentious people will always join the rest of us in concert halls and theatres; Etiquetteer can only hope they pay full price for their tickets and contribute to the Annual Funds of these musical organizations.Etiquetteer knows that beautiful moment of which you speak. It’s essential after many pieces of music, but too often mowed down by audience members who are not always motivated by the performance to begin their applause. Really, it’s up to the conductor. When he or she lowers the baton and begins to turn toward the audience, that is the signal that applause may begin. The problem you mention is at least better than having to deal with those who applaud between movements of a symphony or at the end of every song in a song cycle.But speaking of Inappropriate Audience Response, your query reminds Etiquetteer of a choral concert held in a Boston church several years ago. A Misguided Young Mother brought her infant with her, and Etiquetteer bets you can guess where this is going. The infant began crying and howling at the top of its little lungs halfway through the first piece on the program, and it did not shut up until the intermission had begun. While taking his bows, the conductor made a splendidly dismissive gesture with his baton in the direction of the noise. Etiquetteer was told that, when the MYM was directed by the house manager to leave, she responded that she didn’t leave earlier because she wanted to hear the music. How, Etiquetteer asks, could she do so when she was closer to the source of disturbance than anyone else present?! This is why theatres and concert halls wisely ban "babes in arms." Parents of infants, please take note.

Dear Etiquetteer:Let’s see how you handle this, Etiquetteer. Polemical, provocative bumper stickers: rude or a citizen's right and obligation to speak out?Dear Provocative:Etiquetteer was about to say "both," but no American has an obligation to speak out via a bumper sticker. We do have the right to decorate our automobiles in any way we choose; unfortunately, some choose to do so in a rude way. Think of it as the difference between these two bumper stickers: "Impeach Bush" and "Eat Bush." Both represent the same point of view, but one does so in the most offensive way possible. Etiquetteer is particularly tired of bumper stickers with profanity, such as "Don’t Like My Driving? Dial 1-800-EAT-SH*T." On some highways that’s tossing a red flag in front of a bull! With all the road rage out there, if you MUST have a bumper sticker, Etiquetteer prefers something with a calming message: "Visualize World Peace," "One Day at a Time," "Jesus Loves You," or some such. 

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