DEAR ABBY: My thanks to "Lauren in Cave Creek, Ariz." (March 19) for raising the subject of concert etiquette. It's one of those awkward subjects because everyone knows there is a proper way to do it, but no one knows what the proper way is.
When attending a concert, look carefully at your program. Often it will indicate where to clap. If not, determine how the musical pieces are arranged. Are they in sets of two or three pieces? If so, clap after the set is completed, NOT after each individual piece. The pieces in a set were arranged to flow one into the other. Clapping breaks the flow and mood the composer was trying to convey.
And while we're on the subject of concert manners: As a musician and music teacher, I attend many concerts every year, and I'm appalled at the number of people who talk in the middle of a musical number. Whispering to your neighbor between pieces is fine, but talking during a musical number at a concert or dance recital (or during an act of a play or musical) is a big no-no! Please get the word out, Abby. This is something everyone should know. -- MS. "D" IN GARLAND, TEXAS
DEAR MS. "D": I hope my readers will take note of your informed advice. Lauren's letter caused a flurry of comments from folks connected with the arts. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: I'm a stage manager, the person who sits in the booth and cues lights, actors, scenery, etc. Part of my job is to do a report each night that is sent to the members of the production team, and gauging audience response is part of that report.
One of the wonderful things about art is that it provokes emotion and/or a response. This is vital to the performers on stage, as they feed on the energy that the audience puts forth. An audience that is unresponsive or repressed (referred to as "dead") is much harder to play for. Clapping in the middle of a piece is acceptable if it's to recognize something particular, such as a stylistic move or a soloist.
Performers are usually trained professionals. When applause comes in the middle of a piece, the performers often anticipate it because there is an audience "energy" that precedes it. Unnatural things such as cell phones (even when they vibrate), rustling candy wrappers and cameras are infinitely more distracting and do far more to interrupt a performance. So I say, as long as the clapping is respectful and honest, please clap! I hope this view from the "other side of the curtain" is helpful. -- S.M.P. in WINOOSKI, VT.
DEAR ABBY: As an actor, director and frequent audience member, I can assure "Lauren" that applause is expected after songs in a musical, but not appreciated in the middle of dramatic plays. One more thing: If it's a comedy, please laugh if you think something is funny. Good actors are prepared to deal with laughs whenever they come. -- DOROTHEA IN EL SOBRANTE, CALIF.
DEAR ABBY: At jazz performances, it's traditional to applaud after each featured soloist, as well as at the end of the piece. -- VOICE MAJOR, JACKSON, MICH.
DEAR ABBY: Mozart, in a letter to his father, reported that at the premiere of his "Paris" symphony, the audience actually applauded in the middle of the last movement. Was young Wolfgang offended? Not in the least! He wrote that he was so happy he recited a rosary on the spot! -- MAX R., VIOLINIST, CHICAGO SYMPHONY