If you’ve never been to a Classical or Pops concert before, you probably have lots of questions. Here are some of the answers.
Can I Bring My Children?
It depends on the concert and on the age of your kids. Many standard-length classical concerts are inappropriate for small children because they require an attention span that is difficult for youngsters to maintain. Most concerts also are held at night, and stretch beyond “bedtime.”
To further build your children’s interest in classical music, play classical radio or CDs around the house. When they are old enough to sit quietly for an extended period, you may wish to bring them to the first half of a standard concert. An interested preteen or teenager could also have a marvelous time at an orchestra concert, particularly if it features several different pieces.
In all cases, it’s a good idea to check with the orchestra directly about the appropriateness of the concert you plan to attend with your kids. Also ask about discounts for students and children.
Can I Take Pictures?
Cameras, video recorders, and tape recorders aren’t permitted in concerts. If you happen to have one with you, be sure to stop at the coat-check and check it in before entering the theatre. If you have a camera and want a souvenir of a special evening at the symphony, it can be fun to ask someone to take your picture outside the concert hall before you go in.
Do I Need to Study Beforehand?
There’s no need to study. Even if you don’t know anything about classical music, the music will speak for itself. Just come and enjoy! Over time, many frequent concertgoers do find their enjoyment is deeper if they prepare for a concert. This can be simple, like reading the program notes beforehand; or it can be more involved, like listening to recordings of the music to be performed in the days before they attend a concert.
You know yourself best, so if research interests you, go ahead and follow your curiosity. But if studying isn’t your thing, there’s no need to be concerned about it. Just listen with an open mind.
Should I Arrive Early?
Absolutely! Plan to arrive 20-30 minutes before concert time, so you can find your seat, turn off your cell phone, take a look at your surroundings, absorb the atmosphere, and have time to glance through the program book, too. You won’t be alone. Most concertgoers make a point of coming early to read the program notes, or just watch the orchestra warm up. (Often there is pre-concert entertainment in the Sixth Street lobby for our Saturday evening performances.) Rushing to your seat at the last minute doesn’t really give you enough time to get settled, so you may not fully enjoy the first piece on the program.
And there’s another good reason to come early: Our concerts start on time. If you’re late, you may end up listening from the lobby! If that happens, the usher will allow you inside during a suitable pause in the program, so your arrival won’t disturb other concertgoers. Unfortunately, some concerts have no late seating.
To confirm a particular concert’s late seating policy, please call us at 812.425.5050. If you have to leave a concert before its end, please do so between program works.
What Can I Do During Intermission?
It’s a short rest period for the musicians and conductor-once you see how much activity goes into a performance, you’ll understand why they need a break!
Listening to music is also an intense activity (even if considerably less physical), and a break in the middle helps the audience concentrate better in the second half. Some concerts, though, have no intermission because it would interrupt the flow of a long work. Check the program before the concert so you know what’s coming.
Most intermissions are fifteen to twenty minutes long, which gives you time to socialize with your companions, get a drink or a snack in the lobby, visit the facilities, or simply sit in your seat and read the program notes. Do whatever puts you in a good frame of mind to hear the second half of the concert.
What Should I Do With My Cell Phone?
Turn it off! The same goes for pagers and alarm watches. It’s a good idea to double check in the few minutes before the concert begins, and again as intermission draws to a close. Better still, leave them at home if you can.
What Should I Expect?
Expect to enjoy yourself! This if the time to let go of any preconceptions you may have about classical music or the concert experience. If you feel a litle nervous, that’s OK. Some things about the concert may seem strange because they’re new to you, but if you just focus on the music, you’ll have a great time.
Open yourself up to the music. Let it trigger your emotions-maybe even your memories. Feel the rhythms; follow the tunes. Watch the musicians and the conductor, and see how they interact with each other. Notice how the music ebbs and flows-surging and powerful at some times, delicate and ephemeral at others, and everything in between.
What Should I Wear?
There is no dress code! Anything that makes you feel comfortable is fine. Most people will be wearing business clothes or slightly dressy casual clothes, but you’ll see everything from khakis to cocktail dresses. Some people enjoy dressing up and making a special night of it, and you can, too. Still, evening gowns and tuxedos are pretty rare unless you’ve bought tickets for a fancy gala-and if you have, you’ll know!
It is also recommended that patrons refrain from using perfumes and colognes so as not to distract the patrons around you.
Will I Recognize Any of the Music? (Classics)
You might. Classical music is all around us: in commercials, movie soundtracks, television themes, cartoons, retail shops, and many cell phone ringtones use classical melodies (and please be sure to turn these off at the concert). Popular music often quotes classical melodies, too. While you’re listening in the concert to a piece you think you’ve never heard before, a tune you’ve heard a hundred times may jump out at you.
Whether or not you’ve heard the music before the concert, as you listen, you’ll notice that each classical piece uses its own group of several tunes over and over, in different ways. You’ll start to ”recognize” these melodies as a work progresses. Listen for the ways a melody is repeated: Is it exactly the same as the first time, or with a different character? Is it played by the same instruments, or different ones? Does it start the same as before, but go off in a different direction? Or start differently and surprise you by developing into the tune you recognize from earlier in the piece?
How Can I Learn More About Classical Music?
Most orchestras give you several ways to learn more. You can read program notes online in advance of a concert, or in your seat before the concert begins. Many concerts are preceded by free lectures or Concert Conversations, and these can be entertaining and enlightening. Sometimes the conductor or soloist even talks about the music during the concert.
But you might not need to "know" more to have a great time at your next concert. Most people who attend concerts frequently find that it’s like any other passionate pursuit: The more you do it, the more you enjoy it. Most of the classical works you hear repay frequent listening: The more often you hear a piece, the more wonderful layers you hear in it. If you enjoyed your first concert, plan to come again!
Links and More Information
Here are some links to web sites where you can look up composers and their works, buy recordings, and learn more about classical music:
The Learning Zone of the Naxos Records web site has an introduction to classical music, biographies of composers, a glossary of musical terms, and an excellent guide to live-concert listening. You can also stream loads of classical pieces, so this is a great place to visit if you want to listen to a work a couple of times before you hear it in concert.
FOR THE KIDS…
For kids who are learning to play instruments, FromTheTop.com offers a great resource, and access to public radio’s From The Top programs.
FOR CONTEMPORARY FANS…
If you like the very newest “classical” music, don’t miss NewMusicBox.org , a monthly web ‘zine about living composers and their works.