|Interior of Covent Garden Theater, London|
Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827 British)
Mud Gathered From A Scraper - Part 2 in an occasional series.
Part 1 was an introduction to orchestral Musicians
How many members of an audience realise that whilst they are looking at and commenting on an orchestra, the players are equally looking at them? - and how many people sitting in the front row of the stalls realise just how unintelligent and depressing they appear to those on the platform, or in the pit?
If members of the public are dressed informally, they are held to look scruffy, and players resent wearing formal clothes for them. If the audience is immaculate in evening dress, the players blame it for maintaining the convention that makes dinner jackets compulsory. It is the view of the audience a player has from the impersonal elevation of the platform, before the houselights go down, which determines his opinion that all audiences can be divided into ten categories, regardless of the time, place and programme.
The first group, to which of course all readers of this blog belong, is of genuine music-lovers, who listen to the performance, and do their best to understand the music. They do not necessarily sit in the best seats, and may know little about the intricacies of first movement form, but they are the core of the audience, and the only people to whom musicians are always glad to play, however few in number they may be. There is also a type of listener who imagines that he belongs in the first group. He will exchange knowing remarks about the orchestra with his neighbours, and when he recognises a melody, will hum it to himself, in another key. Many members of amateur orchestras belong to this group.
Another kind of concert-goer tries to give an impression of being musical by studying the score during the performance. Should he not possess a score, or should he become hopelessly lost, he will shut his eyes, assume an expression of concentrated ecstasy and sway slightly, in time with the music. A fourth category is composed largely of old ladies, who appear to be enjoying a concert intelligently, and who will say, in conversation with a performer, how they love good classical music, like "In a Monastery Garden".
Soloists are often engaged for concerts on the strength of their following. The soloist's fans do not bother to hide their boredom during the works preceding the concerto or aria; they are sullen and fidgety and usually leave when their idol has taken his or her last bow. The only point in their favour, from the musicians point of view, is that they make the concert a financial success.
Some people buy season tickets for a series of concerts; thus they can hear six programmes for the price of five. They will attend each programme in order to get their money's worth and can easily be recognised by their air of determined enjoyment, which is similar to that seen at a holiday camp during wet weather.
Smaller sections of audiences may consist of young lovers who consider the surroundings more conducive to successful courting than the cinema. Then there are school parties, who pay reduced rates; pupils regard the occasion as an outing of much the same sort as a conducted tour of the local gas-works. Parents occasionally bring their families to concerts, hoping to 'do them good'. When the youngest member starts whimpering during the slow movement, they leave their seats in the middle of the row, red-faced, kicking as many shins as they find on their way out.
And finally, there is unpunctuality, which is a common failing among all sections of an audience. Although concerts rarely start at the advertised time there is still a core of determined late-comers delaying the performance to the annoyance of players and conductor.
In spite of the foregoing, players need their audience, so please come and listen; they also need to pay the rent.