Many times, those new to classical music are nervous about attending concerts because they don’t know what to expect in terms of concert etiquette, and they may have heard that it is kind of “stuffy” with lots of rules. Relax! Classical music isn’t as intimidating as you might think. Use the tips on this page as a starting point to help you fully experience the wonderful classical music performed by the Arapahoe Philharmonic, whether it is your first time attending an orchestral concert or you are a seasoned concert-goer.
Our performers will generally be in formal attire, unless we are having a special themed event such as our Trailriders collaboration or a “Night at the Movies” program. As an audience member, however, you can wear whatever is comfortable for you. A good guide might be your personal dress code for dinner with friends, or “smart casual.” But you will probably see other concert-goers in everything from relatively dressy attire to a T-shirt and jeans, so you can feel comfortable wearing anything in this range. If you wear a hat, don’t forget to remove it during the performance so as not to block anyone’s view of the stage.
Cellular Telephones and Pagers
Please silence your cell phones, pagers, alarms, and other audible electronic devices before the concert begins. But, feel free to check in or tweet a photo. We love engaging with audience members on social media! We do ask, however, that you do not use flash when taking photos during the concert and that you are mindful to not disturb your seat neighbors. Phone screens give off more light than you’d think in a darkened hall!
Where should I sit?
It may take you several concerts to decide where you prefer to sit. Do you want to be on the left side of the auditorium close to the front and watch the percussion section? Do you want to be in the center near the back and see the bigger picture of the whole performance? Do you want to be nearer the front on the right and keep a close eye on the cellos and bass players? Because we don’t have assigned seats, you can try out different locations until you find the perfect spot.
If you arrive late, you may need to wait until a break between pieces for an usher to allow you to enter the hall. However, late seating is not available at all performances, depending on the program. Please try to arrive in plenty of time to get seated before the lights dim and the concert begins.
How will I know when the concert is about to begin?
When you first take your seat, you may find that some musicians are already on stage even though the concert isn’t scheduled to begin for awhile. Don’t worry; you’re not late. The musicians are warming up, checking over their music, looking at difficult music page turns, and getting settled before the concert begins. Just before the start of the concert, after all of the members of the orchestra are seated, the lights will dim, and the concertmaster will come out to the front of the stage, take a bow, and signal to the first oboe player to play the note A. The rest of the orchestra will then tune their instruments to match the oboe. The conductor will then come out onto the stage. He will take a bow also, then turn around, mount the podium, and begin the concert. It is appropriate to clap for both the concertmaster and the conductor as they bow.
Is it time to clap yet?
While tradition has changed over time, today’s audiences usually wait until the end of an entire work to clap, even though the piece may have several parts or movements where the orchestra will pause before continuing. It is considered a minor faux pas to clap between movements, though the musicians will be glad to know that you are enjoying their performance! Why is it important not to clap at these break points? Holding applause between movements is considered to be respectful to the performers’ concentration and maintains the momentum of the music they are creating. In addition, quiet endings have a lingering magic that can be too easily broken by audience members in a hurry to initiate applause. Sacred works offered in worship are not applauded at all, but when presented in an artistic context such as an Arapahoe Philharmonic concert, sacred works still often get respectful silence for a long moment before any applause is generated.
If you want to anticipate when the composition will come to an end, you can count the number of movements for an entire work as listed in the program booklet. The movements are also usually easy to hear because of the different tempos or speeds and moods of the music, so keep track of the sections and applaud after the final movement. The occasional composer can trick you, however, by not inserting a pause between movements. Beethoven, for example, doesn’t have a pause between the third and fourth movements of his 5th Symphony. Your best bet is to watch the conductor. He will let you know when a piece is over, so wait until he puts his arms down and turns to face the audience. If his hands remain in front of him, he is waiting for the orchestra to be ready to continue with the next movement of the piece. If the work is completed, the conductor will also shake the hands of the concertmaster and the soloist if there is one. If you’re still in doubt, you can always wait until the majority of the crowd begins to applaud.
Other Sounds During the Concert
The most important thing to remember at a classical music concert is to make sure others can listen to the music undisturbed. Instruments are usually not amplified, so audience noises can be distracting. Our audiences want to hear everything this wonderful music has to offer! Don’t talk, whisper, sing or hum along, or move personal belongings. Even the quietest whispers can be heard in the concert hall and can prove to be a distraction to patrons and musicians alike. Conversation at a concert normally stops at the first entrance of the concertmaster, conductor, or soloist. Save your comments until intermission or after the concert, as it will give you and your friends much more to discuss. This will ensure that you and the other patrons will enjoy the full benefit of the performance.
Please completely silence your cell phones, pagers, watch alarms, and other electronic devices for the duration of the performance. We record our performances, so we appreciate your help in maintaining the quality of our recordings. Should you need to use oxygen at a concert, we ask that you please set your tank to a quiet, continuous flow if possible, so that no extraneous sounds are recorded.
Don’t enter or exit the hall while a performance is in progress unless absolutely necessary. If you must leave your seat, do so quickly and quietly, proceeding to the nearest door or asking the nearest usher for assistance.
If you have a cold or allergies, please take appropriate medication in advance to control symptoms. For that tickle in the throat, use a cough drop to ensure that the concert experience is as pleasurable as possible for you — and those around you. Cough drops are available from the Box Office. Please kindly unwrap them ahead of time as well.
Experienced concertgoers try to suppress coughs and sneezes until a loud passage arrives, and muffle these. If you cannot suppress a fit of coughing, it is acceptable to depart from the Hall until you feel better. There is water available in the lobby.
You may take the time to visit the restroom, get a snack or other refreshment in the lobby, and visit briefly with other concert-goers or orchestra performers who may be spending intermission in the lobby along with our patrons. Watch for signs that you should return to your seat – flashing lobby lights or a bell ringing will be typical indicators.
Occasionally, if the audience continues enthusiastic applause and a soloist and orchestra are prepared to play an additional composition, an encore performance will be provided. This is unlikely in most of the Arapahoe Philharmonic concerts, but if it happens, now you know what is going on!
After the Concert
As the applause starts to die down, the performers will leave the stage to put their instruments away. The house lights will be turned on. At this point the concert is over, and it is time to go home. Please exit the hall with the same courtesy you exhibited throughout the concert.
While there are some specific rules of etiquette for attending a concert, there have been some major lapses of decorum throughout music history! In 1861 a Paris performance of Richard Wagner’s opera Tannhäuser was deliberately sabotaged by audience members bringing noisemakers. Catcalls and whistles from the crowd interrupted the premiere of Stravinsky’s ballet The Rite of Spring in 1913, and deteriorated into fistfights in the aisles requiring police intervention. Conductor Michael Tilson Thomas recalls a woman walking down the aisle and beating her head against the front of the stage, crying out, “Stop, stop! I confess!” We trust that you will find the music performed at Arapahoe Philharmonic concerts to be much more to your liking, and that none of these types of disruptions will break out in our concert hall!
We do like to have a little fun, however. In this video, AP Music Director and Conductor Devin Patrick Hughes gets the audience conducting and reenacts the riot at The Rite of Spring premiere.
Thank you for reviewing this information. We hope that you find it useful as you experience the delights of a live classical concert performance with the Arapahoe Philharmonic! If you have additional questions, please check in with the Box Office prior to the concert.