Common concert courtesy is a dwindling commodity.
Friday, January 7, 2000
Some of us continued going to movie theaters years ago despite sticking to the floor because of someone''s spilled Coke. Then people started indulging in out-loud conversations.
The classical concert, however, remained relatively free from intrusive distractions until we started to hear the occasional high-frequency whistling of a hearing aid. Unfortunately, the offending patron usually could not hear it, so we responded forgivingly while trying to help them fix the problem.
But then came chiming wrist-watches, and tempers began to smolder. We rolled our eyes when the chiming burst in on the music, and only stared daggers when the offender was unable to defeat the technology strapped to his or her wrist.
In more recent years, concert presenters themselves have grown lax in enforcing their own previously published rules. Ushers (notably at Sunset Center, favored by the overwhelming majority of local classical presenters) now often seat late-arriving patrons without waiting for a break in the music--as occurred last fall when usher manager Hilde Huckelberry brought two patrons to their seats in the middle of a Monterey Symphony performance. In fact, the late-arriving couple carried on a lively conversation before they were finally settled in their seats.
This latter episode was especially inexplicable since the Monterey Symphony prints a comprehensive list of concert etiquette in its program book. Under "Concert Rules" is written, "Patrons are requested to turn off signal watches prior to the start of the concert," and "Hearing aids must be adjusted so that they emit no noise." Under "Concert Times," the MS writes, &>quot;Latecomers will be seated by the ushers during the first convenient pause in the program." (If the opening work happened to be Also sprach Zarathustra, latecomers would be held in the lobby all the way to intermission.)
In its section "Children," the MS advises, "Children under the age of 7 are not permitted at performances; and held infants are inappropriate." While I have rarely seen children "under 7" misbehave in a concert environment, it is amazing how often parents bring infants without regard for the audience members around them.
"Common" courtesies seem to be unraveling in the concert environment more and more. Early this season, a chamber music patron at Sunset Center received incoming cellular phone calls twice during the performance of one piece, and was unable to defeat its loud squawking on both occasions. (One could only wonder why anyone would bring a cellular phone to a concert in the first place.) And this was not the first time phones have interrupted music in Carmel.
The Monterey Symphony shows rare leadership in the local classical environment with its published "Patron Information" page, despite its less-than-effective enforcement. Most other presenters offer little or no guidance. But the one thing most of them instruct unequivocally--to quote the San Jose Symphony program book--"The use of cameras and recording devices is prohibited." It was not only offensive to everyone present but potentially dangerous to the performer when, at a Salinas recital by Van Cliburn competition-winner Jon Nakamatsu last fall, some jackass in the second row repeatedly took flash photos of the artist from point-blank range.
Incidents like these used to be rare, and were inflicted only by nave and uninformed concert-goers (and those who didn''t care what it cost others so long as they could indulge themselves). But as six billion people now make the Earth a much smaller place to live, there is even less excuse for behavior that distracts from and diminishes the concert experience.
The Monterey Branch of the Music Teachers'' Association of California will present the gifted young pianist and composer, Andrew Norman, in concert on Sunday, Jan. 9, at 3pm in the MPC Music Hall. He will be assisted by the Norman String Quartet. The first part of the program will consist of Norman performing solo piano works by Beethoven, Muczynski, Ravel and Granados. The second half will feature some of Norman''s compositions, three of which have won national ASCAP awards. Andrew Norman''s piano instruction started when he was 6 years old. He was a National Merit Scholar and is now a freshman at USC with a double major in piano and composition.
Santa Cruz County Symphony Saturday, 8pm; Sunday, 3pm. John Larry Granger conducts Milhaud''s Creation du Monde, Lou Harrison''s Suites for Cello and Strings (featuring Emile Miland), Beethoven''s Symphony 5 in C Minor. Saturday: Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, 307 Church St., Santa Cruz. Sunday: Mello Center, East Beach and Lincoln streets, Watsonville. $17-32. 420-5260.
Composer/Pianist Andrew Norman Sunday, 3pm. Music Hall, Monterey Peninsula College, 980 Fremont St., Monterey. $8/Adults; $5/seniors and children. 624-9541. (See above for details.)
Pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet Tuesday, 8pm. Carmel Music Society returns acclaimed concert/recording artist for preludes by Debussy, Chopin, plus other Chopin works. Sunset Center, San Carlos and 9th, Carmel. $40, $30, $15. 624-9938.