Reader Response, Vol. 5, Issue 15

Etiquetteer heard from a few readers after a recent column about concert hall manners and bumper stickers, some of which are worth sharing:Dear Etiquetteer:Although I have been going to concerts since I was very young (not as a babe-in-arms, though!) and learned early on to watch my parents for the signal to clap, as a professional violinist concerned about the future of classical music, I hesitate to criticize those who clap between movements. Sometimes the music is just so moving or the performance so incredible that it seems totally appropriate and wonderful that people express their appreciation with clapping. This was in fact the classical tradition until Mahler criticized it and insisted that people wait until the end of the piece. We need to break the barriers between new concert-goers and classical music and make it accessible, less like an event that might cause embarrassment if you don't know "the code." Recently, I played a concert with the Lexington Symphony to a sold-out hall, where people clapped between several of the movements, expressing sheer joy for the gifts of baritone Robert Honeysucker as he sang Copland's "Old American Songs." It was music to our ears. What a wonderful display of enthusiasm and how rewarding for all of us on stage to know that this music and its performers are held dear to many.Etiquetteer responds: Thank you for raising a different point of view. Etiquetteer certainly did not mean to criticize those genuinely moved by a performance, but those who applaud early solely to call attention to themselves. A breathtaking recording of Luciano Pavarotti, Joan Sutherland, and Marilyn Horne in recital at Lincoln Center is marred only by some pretentious man honking "Bra-VEE! Bra-VEE!" at the end of several pieces. So now everyone knows he can conjugate Italian . . . and would rather not have that knowledge. Etiquetteer agrees with you wholeheartedly that new concert-goers need to be welcomed enthusiastically into the concert hall. But Etiquetteer must gently express some concern that too many people believe that making classical music "accessible" means letting people behave any way they wish with no regard for those around them. Do not underestimate the value of embarrassment. Thinking people will learn from it and thereby grow in Perfect Propriety.Dear Etiquetteer:What's worse than boors who applaud before the last note are the hordes of (I'd call them one of the names that come to mind but I hate to insult a whole group of tacky people for these are worse.) Those I speak of are the people who must rush to leave and take care of the thief making off with their car.As for bumper stickers, I once pulled behind a car with one that read "Honk if you love Jesus." I honked politely and got the well-known finger.Dear Etiquetteer:I no longer employ bumper stickers, as a result of an otherwise Perfectly Proper (and very successful) interview back in the early 1970s, followed by watercress sandwiches on the exclusive suburban lawn of my Republican hosts. I had gone to the effort of getting a short haircut, polished shoes, clean car, etc, and felt wonderful as the enthusiastic hosts walked me to my car. (You know what's coming).As I watched them cheerfully wave goodbye through my rear view mirror, I saw their hands drop abruptly as they read the message on my rear window (which I could read, because now it was reversed and read right to left), "Impeach The Cox* Sacker".Of course, I didn't get the job.*The writer is referring to Archibald Cox, who was fired by President Richard Nixon during Watergate.

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