Day 6: When to Clap?
The whole clapping thing, like clothes, is one of these concerns that looms large–larger than it should. The problem: in classical music concerts, works are often composed of several movements, and or performed in sets. If you are unfamiliar with the music, it’s not necessarily clear whether a stop in the music represents the conclusion or just a pause between movements.
The program may or may not help.
To wit, if you see:
Beethoven, Symphony No. 5 in C-minor, Opus 67
Allegro con brio
Andante con moto
But all you have ever heard are the famous first measures, what do you about the rest? How do you know when the whole thing ends? How do you keep from being the only person in the concert hall who reveals that you don’t know when to clap?
My first advice is not to worry about it. You are not on trial. (And even you were, the most you might be sentenced to is a raised eyebrow of a neighbor.) Although it’s not appropriate to clap (or make any sound) during the music, after it ends–particularly when there is a big finale–somebody is likely to clap. Sometimes the conductor or soloist will acknowledge and even appreciate it, other times, if they want to go on and maintain the mood, they will you let you know that too. (I once heard Renée Fleming ask a Boston audience not to clap between songs in a lieder recital and the arresting Jaap Van Zweden, a conductor to see if you get the chance, managed, with a shrug of his shoulders, to silence a hall that began to erupt after a radiant movement in a Rachmaninoff Symphony.)
Context is all too. A singer doing a star turn in an opera or a dancer executing an extraordinary solo in a ballet will get applause. It’s a human connection. (The clapping for the reveal of a set is another matter, and that usually seems a little weird to me. Although I have seen shows in which the set was by far the most impressive creative achievement, so I guess it makes sense.)
Part of the context is community. The pleasure (at least in ideal circumstances) of going to a live performance is that you are there with the artists and with your fellow listeners. (That sometimes this is a mixed bag, I’ll address in a future post). When something special is happening–I recall the rapt magic that Leontyne Price could summon in her recitals, something that was followed by a tumultuous roar of applause–everybody is in it together, listening, rejoicing, then clapping. If you are tuned into that, your applause will join in with your fellow listeners. A wonderful thing.