teaching an audience how to listen.

Dear audience.

choir concertWe are thrilled that you are here. We are glad that you have decided to spend an hour listening to your child and the other 150 children that are singing in this concert.

As you are waiting for the concert to begin, here are some thoughts to help all of us enjoy the concert.

Different kinds of choirs sing different kinds of music. When show choirs have soloists, the music is arranged to allow for applause. Most arrangements for children’s choirs do not have those breaks. If you clap, that noise overwhelms the singing that follows. After the song is over, soloists will be identified for applause.

We understand that too often we have said, “you don’t clap for soloists in serious music.” Too often we have acted as if everyone knows when to clap and when not to clap. We have made it be a measure of “appropriate concert behavior.”

We apologize for that elitism.  We apologize for not explaining why to hold your applause. We apologize for not explaining the differences between styles of music and what that means for an audience.

While we’re at it, we probably should tell you that when you are 10 and you are trying to look at the director and remember your notes and words and listen to the piano and to the person next to you, a camera flash is really distracting. So is seeing you walking across the back of the room or having you walk out in the middle of the song. You understand how hard it is to concentrate.

Speaking of concentrating, you know how hard it is when you are trying to talk on the phone a two-year-old starts to talk or an infant starts to cry next to you? It’s the same in a room like this where there is singing without microphones.

This is, of course, an imaginary letter. We would never take the time to explain to our audiences how to be an audience. We would rather be frustrated.And, after all, they should know.

But what if we did explain? What could it change?

4 responses to “teaching an audience how to listen.

  1. but it is so much easier to pretend everyone knows every thing. it doesn’t matter if it’s a crowd of strangers, an employee, friend, or family. . . at least I want it to be so.

  2. Maybe the secretary can get your words published as part of the next program…I would feel helped as an audience member reading them, because your analogies make it all so clear.

  3. I personally think it doesn’t matter if you explain or not. People will still be rude. At the school concerts I’ve attended, the director has asked that no photos be taken DURING the concert, that distracting children be taken out (and they arranged for a classroom nearby to be open with a teacher in there so that kids that can’t sit can color and watch the concert over Closed Circuit TV). They have asked that no cat calls or shout outs occur during the concert. All of this is explained as being distracting to others and for the enjoyment of all, please blah blah blah. I swear that many attendees only hear Charlie Brown voices…Mwaa, mwaaaaa, mawwwa… Because they still take pictures, they still talk, they still let their noisy kids distract everyone, and they still shout out and whistle and embarrass their kid on stage…and annoy everyone else. It’s a rude world we live in where it’s all about “me” and to heck w/ everyone around me.