Commandments of Concert Etiquette – by Byron Belt

The performing arts season is getting into full swing. Audiences are set to enjoy the entertainment and inspiration of performing ensembles of every description.

One thing is for certain; for many, the performances will be marred by thoughtlessness on the part of too many people who otherwise consider themselves good citizens.  These people ignore the simple rules of courtesy, or unconsciously destroy the peaceful environment necessary for enjoyment of many of the wonderful performances being offered a generally eager and appreciative audience.

Here are some rules that should be reprinted in every program book in America.  Simple common sense and courtesy will vastly improve the serenity and happiness of sharers in the magic of the arts.


TALK.  The first and greatest commandment.  Stay home if you aren’t in the mood to give full attention to what is being performed on stage.

HUM, SING OR TAP FINGERS OR FEET. The musicians don’t need your help, and your neighbors need silence. Learn to tap toes quietly within shoes. It saves a lot of annoyance to others, and is excellent exercise to boot.

RUSTLE THY PROGRAM. Restless readers and page skimmers aren’t good listeners and gently distract those around them.

CRACK THY GUM IN THY NEIGHBOR’S EARS.  The noise is completely inexcusable and usually unconscious.  The sight of otherwise elegant ladies and gentlemen chewing their cud is one of today’s most revolting and anti-aesthetic experiences.

WEAR LOUD-TICKING WATCHES OR JANGLE THY JEWELRY.  Owners are usually immune, but the added percussion is disturbing to all.

OPEN CELLOPHANE-WRAPPED CANDIES.  Next to talking, this is the most serious offense to auditorium peace.  If you have a sore throat, unwrap throat-soothers between acts or musical selections.  If caught off guard, open the candies quickly.  Trying to be quiet by opening wrappers slowly only prolongs the torture for everyone around you.

SNAP OPEN AND CLOSE THY PURSE.  The problem used to apply only to women.  But today, men are often equal offenders.  Leave any purse or opera glasses case unlatched during the performance

SIGH WITH BOREDOM.  If you are in agony, keep it to yourself.  Your neighbor may be in ecstasy, which also should be kept under control.

ARRIVE LATE OR LEAVE EARLY. It is unfair to artists and the public to demand seating when one is late or leaves early. Most performances have scheduled time; thy to abide by them.

There are other points, of course, and each reader will have a pet peeve we have omitted. However, if these were obeyed, going to performances would be the joy that it was intended to be and we all would emerge more refreshed.

…and here is an addition by the Festival Committee

USE YOUR CELL PHONE. No texting, no tweeting, no email, no games. Cell phones should be set to silent or vibrate or, better yet, turned off completely.