Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Courtesy Part I: Concert Etiquette

First, let me point out: this "concert etiquette" is referring to choral-type concerts, or school band concerts, or similar things, not pop or rock concerts. Etiquette for those is, well, quite different from what I'm presenting here.

This will be the first in a multi-part series about Courtesy, which seems to be increasingly lacking in modern people. I don't yet know when the next installment(s) will be posted, and likely they won't be consecutive (i.e., there will likely be intervening other posts). Anyway, here we go.

My two youngest boys were in the Alabama Vocal Association's All-State Choral Festival this past weekend. Yay, boys! (One super-highlight of their going to All-State: it's at Samford University in Birmingham, where Milo's Hamburgers is; of all the things I miss most from Birmingham, it's Milo's - they had one in Foley for a while, but it shut down shortly after we moved down here. If you haven't been to Milo's, and you live near one, you should check it out - burger & fries combo with their famous sweet tea.)

The concert was great! Well, the choirs were great. The rudeness and inconsiderate behavior of people - which is increasingly worse every year (we've been to the AVA All-State concert pretty much every year for nearly a decade now, thanks to incredibly talented children) - that is not so great. In case anyone is reading this who attended and was one of the offenders, I didn't come over halfway across the state to listen to you talking, your bag of chips rattling, or to see and hear you clomping around during the songs. Absurdly ridiculous behavior.

So, some concert etiquette tips for these kinds of concerts (this applies to band concerts, choir concerts, school plays, and similar types of activities, such as operas, musicals, plays, etc.):

  1. Don't talk. Period. No one came to hear you talk. Whatever it is you're saying can WAIT (until between songs, between sets/choirs, etc.). It really doesn't have to be said right now, while the choir is singing. And, yes, I can hear you, even if you're trying to whisper. We're in an auditorium, designed to carry sound. So, keep your mouth shut. So what if your kids in the first choir and we're now halfway through the last choir? Someone else's kid is in that choir, and that person was considerate and respectful and didn't talk through your kid's choir's performance, so show the same courtesy for others. (At one point I even turned and tried to do the "shh" sign to some people who were chatting against the back wall - we were in the last row on the lower level - but they totally ignored me; I was videoing at the time, so didn't want to make a lot more noise that would get picked up on the camera as well.)
  2. Don't rustle . Whether it's a foil bag of chips, your concert program, keys, your purse, or whatever else, PLEASE be respectful and don't rustle it. It can WAIT. Like the guy sitting in our row who was eating chips from a foil bag during the boys' songs - it doesn't matter how carefully you try to maneuver your hand in there, it's going to make noise. It's a foil bag - that's what it does. Oh, and the chips, when you crunch them, that's noisy, too. Eat your snack between songs or between sets, but not while the kids are singing (or playing a band tune or whatever). It's rude. Note: this applies to opening bottles of whatever as well, especially carbonated whatever - that little hiss, it's distracting (especially during softer choral pieces). At least wait until between songs, and then take a swig of your Pepsi.*
  3. Don't get up and leave. There's one situation where this is acceptable: if you have a small child who need to go to the restroom, sometimes it's imperative to get that kid to the restroom. (OK, two scenarios: puking - please do leave if you, or your child, are about to puke.) In that situation, please exit quickly and quietly. But if you're, say, mid 30s (or mid 40s or mid 20s, several of the ages that I saw doing this), don't get up and leave in the middle of a song. At the very least, wait until between songs; better, wait till between choirs, when there's a lot of activity anyway (choirs leaving, choirs entering, etc.). It's really rude to be walking around during the choir's singing (rude and distracting), especially if you're clomping around in weird high shoes (like the one early 20s girl who left from the middle of a middle-section row, doing "excuse me" the whole way while traipsing past people still seated, then clomped out the back). And, if you do have to leave, be sure to do so quietly - don't be banging the doors around, and be sure to let them close quietly behind you instead of slamming shut.
  4. Don't enter. If you've had to leave for some reason (or you're late getting there), don't open the door and come into the auditorium and either try to find a seat or go back to your seat. Wait until the set is over (at the very least, wait until the song is over, although it's much more respectful if you wait until the set is over and the choir is changing - you'll have more time to get to your seat, won't bother people as much getting to your seat, etc.). That early 20s girl who got up mid-song, clomped out, and was very noisy the whole time, yeah, she came back in the middle of the next song, clomping in, "excuse me" as she was climbing past people to get back to her seat in the middle of the row, with the bottle of water and bag of chips she got from the snack bar, and then proceeded to eat her chips. Yep: she got up and left in the middle of a song to go to the snack bar, and then returned in the middle of the next song and ate the snack. And I lost count of the number of people - even elderly people who you'd think would have better concert manners - who would leave in the middle of a song and then return in the middle of the next song (instead of waiting till between choirs or, at the very least, between songs). Seriously, people, it's rude enough to leave during a song, but that aside, returning during a song is a total, complete, utter, willful lack of respect to those who are on the stage (and those who are trying to listen to those who are on the stage). Even if you felt you had to get up and leave for whatever reason, STAY OUT until the set is over.
  5. If you have a child who is distracting, please remove the child from the area. I get that a sneeze is involuntary, as is a cough. But if the child is chronically coughing over the entire performance, perhaps you should take that child outside the auditorium and get him some water or something, so that people can hear the concert instead of the coughing. I'm not trying to be mean here - I've had a child who was a distraction before, and I removed that child from the area. It's nothing personal against the child, and like I said, I understand that a cough or a sneeze is involuntary, but if chronic, it becomes more than a momentary distraction and should be addressed.
These are just a few of the etiquette rules that were blatantly ignored during the AVA All-State concert this past weekend. From what I could tell, the choirs did a great job. I just wish I could have heard more of them, and less of the audience. And, if you're interested, here's one of the boys' choir's pieces:

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