I am writing in response to a recent letter to the editor regarding concerns over audience etiquette in our concert hall during a recent concert with Lang Lang and the Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra.
On behalf of our orchestra, first we want to thank the reader for her kind words regarding the program and our orchestra. We are most appreciative of her support and the obvious care she shows for great music in our community.
The letter expressed concern that the audience applause between movements reflected poorly on our community.
I have to say my takeaway from the evening was one of great pride in our community for showing up and filling the hall to the rafters, for providing the financial support to make such a special concert happen and for the overwhelmingly enthusiastic response to the concert. I, of course, also have great pride in our BRSO musicians who shine every night.
The reader is correct that it has become customary to not applaud between the individual movements of a multimovement work, but a look back into musical history shows us that has not always been the case. For example, applause was common between movements in the 18th century.
The present custom of holding applause developed during the late 19th century and grew more popular with the advent of recorded music. The idea was that such practice allowed listeners to experience the piece in its entirety without interruption.
While there certainly is merit to that, as just one of the many performers on stage, I must say that I am most thankful for an appreciative audience, and spontaneous expression of that appreciation is a good thing. When I hear applause between movements, it is welcomed. It tells me there are new people in the concert hall. To those friends I say, “I am glad you liked it. Please come again!”
Great music is for everyone. It’s important to me that everyone feels welcome to enjoy a BRSO concert, even if they are unfamiliar with customs of the concert hall.
If our audience at large may at times lack some knowledge of musical customs, (as most of today’s audiences do across the country) they make up for it with a genuine appetite, enthusiasm and connection to great music in live performance.
Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra