Let’s talk about a typical concert experience. First, there is the jazz concert, the one at a trendy bar downtown. You go to swanky clubs such as Upstairs and listen to some whacked out players spin out jazz tunes. These tunes are so full of energy and funk that you won’t hesitate to scream and shout, whistle and holla’, especially considering all the noise from the drunken 45-year-olds in the back of the room. In fact, the more enthusiastically you appreciate the music, the better. It is deemed socially acceptable to express yourself as loudly as possible. At rock concerts this is particularly true, as fans are expected to react to the music both vocally and physically: Throw your entire body onto the stage and yell like a horse… or until you are hoarse. I wouldn’t personally recommend this action because you might get kicked (literally) off the stage and break a bone or two, but some people seem to dig it.
Now, imagine another scenario: You arrive at a different type of concert. As you enter the auditorium, the usher hands you a program filled with everything you would ever want to know about the Grieg String Quartet in G minor. Perfectly respectable and spectacled people arrive in polite fashion; everyone whispers amongst themselves as the lights dim. Four performers take the stage wearing glittering black gowns, stringed instruments in hand. As the first chord sounds from the violinist, you show your anticipation with a good loud holler: “Now THAT”S what I’m talkin’ ABOUT!!!” The socialite crowd, noses slightly higher than the average person’s, turns around in silent shock. Meanwhile, the concert continues without a flinch from the performers onstage. A few moments later, there is an amazing demonstration of perfect vibrato from the violist. Of course, you are beside yourself, so you let out a good loud “Woooht Woooht,” which takes care of that. It’s all about personal expression after all.
The grand finale of the concert ends in a frenzy of chromatic scales followed by a few good loud chords, all of which require something emphatic to exhibit the full extent of your appreciation for the music. Therefore, you launch yourself up onto the stage, arms waving above your head and bellow: “YAAAAA!”
I guarantee that you will not get thrown off the stage, that there will not be any broken bones involved and that everyone will remember you for a very long time. And unlike at the overrated rock show, you will not be deaf for a week afterwards due to high decibel levels. The adrenaline rush from a classical music show can be just as intense as any other concert experience, if not more so, due to the fact that everyone else is watching YOU the whole time. Talk about performance art.
While many classical concerts are perceived to be low-key unemotional events, there is no reason why they cannot inspire energetic audience participation. There needs to be more spunk, funk and roar to Beethoven and more jubilant, intoxicated Mendelssohn concerts. Both performers and audience members need to be in hysterics, or balling their eyes out, for at least a third of the duration of the show. I’m not suggesting that fans go to these concerts drunk out of their minds, however, classical concerts are not just extended naptimes either. When listening to classical music, let yourself loose. If you feel like screaming, do so without hesitation; if you have an impulse to stomp your feet, go for it. Please do not bore the musicians to sleep with your lack of enthusiasm. We appreciate a few good loud bellows from offstage to keep us on our toes… so roar away.