CLASSICAL MUSIC
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Hong Kong Arts Festival 2015

Sshhh! Dos and don'ts for concert-goers in Hong Kong (and everywhere)

After the rumpus caused by someone clapping in the wrong place at the Staatskapelle Dresden's Hong Kong concert, we explain why its frowned upon these days

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 March, 2015, 5:46pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 May, 2015, 11:31am

Concert etiquette has evolved over the centuries - something that was previously deemed acceptable is now a sign of a barbarian in the house. Such was the case this past weekend during the opening concert of the 43rd Hong Kong Arts Festival, when renowned German orchestra the Staatskapelle Dresden performed Richard Strauss’ Metamorphosen and,  before the 20-minute piece ended, an audience member began to clap.

Conductor Christian Thielemann had an annoyed look on his face, and soon afterwards other audience members got into a shouting match over the culprit’s actions inside the Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall.

However, it’s worth remembering that in the days of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the young composer and performer expected his audience to clap in between movements, and wrote to his father in 1778 about how excited he was at hearing the warm appreciation for his music.

By around 1900, though, some music lovers had come to believe that certain works should be appreciated in complete silence, and soon the moment just before the house lights are dimmed and the audience becomes quiet became known as the “Bayreuth hush”.

Richard Wagner, who staged his operas in the German town of Bayreuth, seems to have been a stickler for silence: he demanded this “hush” from his audiences, and didn’t want music fans wildly clapping for their favourite singers either. Later on in the 20th century, with the advent of recording technology, applause was seen more as a distraction than an encouragement.

Nowadays anyone who claps in between movements is considered uncouth and hardly qualified to be sitting in the audience.

Besides clapping in the wrong places, these are five more no-nos for audience members at classical music concerts (and yes, they've all been observed at concerts in Hong Kong):

Drinking beer

Eating peanuts

Peeling oranges

Talking on mobile phones

Rattling bags

If someone's annoyed you in other ways at a concert, do share it with us.