Miss Manners

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am primarily a classical musician, but I dabble in other styles of music, as well. In my 10 years of playing professionally, I’ve noticed it becoming more common for musicians to bring bottles of water onstage with them during a concert. This is especially true of nonclassical concerts, but I occasionally see it in classical settings, as well.

Whenever I see this, I am reminded of my late former teacher, whom one might have described as old-fashioned, complaining about seeing a jazz concert in which the performers had bottles of water onstage with them. He felt it disrupted the performance.

On the other hand, I have many times felt that as a wind instrumentalist, my performance would benefit from being able to drink water as needed during a concert. Please solve the dilemma, Miss Manners. Which is more important: ambiance, or hydrated performers?

GENTLE READER: Deceptively neutral as your question is, Miss Manners is quite aware that any suggestion on her part that aesthetics are relevant to art would be met with accusations either that she is indifferent to the health of performers or that she is putting visual appearance before musical quality.

It would do her no good to point out that performers, like other mortals, are subject to fads, or that their track record, where medical matters are concerned, is not impressive. Witness the sleeping, not to mention pharmaceutical, habits of some well-known musicians -- or the many opera singers who used to advertise cigarettes.

As the question really is more one of aesthetics than etiquette, Miss Manners leaves it up to the individual performer to determine the appropriate trade-off between actions that make performance easier and those that may put off sensitive audience members.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have reached a stage in life where I know an increasing number of dead people. Or more accurately, a growing number of people I knew when they were alive have died recently.

I know you wear black to a funeral. But I find these days that many bereaved families prefer to hold small, formal, private funerals, followed some time later by a “celebration of life” that is somewhat more festive. I went to one recently at a beach club loved by the deceased. Another coming up is in a backyard with a taco truck.

What to wear? I wore a black dress with a colorful floral print to the beach club event, and my sister -- who wore all black -- scolded me, saying it was “too loud.” Maybe it was, but now I’m confused.

GENTLE READER: Well, it is a confusing event. You are being asked to mourn cheerfully and highly informally.

Indeed, it would be strange to show up behind that taco truck wearing a black hat. (You mean you don’t wear hats to traditional funerals held in houses of worship? Miss Manners does.)

Your costume seems a fitting compromise between mourning and celebrating; the etiquette error here is to critique other people’s choices, correct or otherwise.

(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, dearmissmanners@gmail.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)

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