Audience etiquette. Are Musicians being precious, or is this a deeper issue?

Those who know me well, will tell you that I am a very patient and tolerant person. I “go with the flow” on most things in everyday life, but there is one thing I can’t stand and will not tolerate, and that’s rudeness and bad manners.

Each one of us will have a different definition of rudeness, however my attention was drawn to the media reports this week, following the Wales v Australia Rugby International, played at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. (I’ll just quickly squeeze in here, that I was in the Regimental Band of The Royal Welsh, that played the Anthems prior to the kick-off!). There was much made about the pockets of bad-mannered fans who were booing the Australians when kicking for goal, despite repeated requests over the public-address system for quiet. This usually takes place in complete silence, out of respect to the kicker! Yes, 60,000+ people, even if the majority want him to miss!

With tickets now being made available to a wider non-rugby based audience – previously the vast majority were sold to rugby clubs – there is now a cross-section of “supporters” attending matches, many of whom now just go for the atmosphere and the “craic” and have no real understanding of the niceties of the game itself, nor the way a fan is expected to conduct themselves throughout the game.

Then, last night, a friend of mine (who is a member of a world-renowned orchestra) posted on social media, that a number of the audience at a performance he was participating in, talked all the way through the entr’acte to an Opera. Now some of you are thinking, “What’s the big deal, the performance doesn’t really start until the curtain goes up and the singers start?” Others, like me are thinking, “How rude and how disrespectful!”

Gethin Liddington is one of the finest Jazz Trumpeters on the UK circuit nowadays – and one of the most placid guys you will ever meet – yet he mentioned to me that he regularly has to contend with people talking through his gigs, often just feet away from him, making it very difficult to concentrate and to enjoy the gig. Should a performer have to get embroiled in a dialogue with a member of the audience and politely ask them to be quiet (because they didn’t know any better), or are they just being downright rude and ignorant?

I have sat in the audience, where someone sat in front of me talked all the way through a Concert, up until their “little precious” took to the stage. Suddenly the ground-rules took a seismic shift and woe-betide anyone who dared to cough or rustle their programme during Hermione’s special solo! That person was just rude and ignorant in my book. Oh, once Hermione finished her slot, said person left the Concert before it finished, upsetting Tabitha’s parents during her special solo – but that didn’t matter of course!

Music has sadly been consigned by many, to be something that goes on in the background of our lives. During Sports results on TV, whilst we’re in the lift or shopping in the Mall, or on hold on the phone waiting to sort out our gas bill query. To talk through any music is the norm now it seems.  So as venues, ensembles and musicians constantly strive to attract new audiences, is it necessary for us to “gently” advise our newer patrons, that a certain “etiquette” is expected of them? Then they won’t inadvertently upset performers and audience alike. As for the established audience members, who continue to talk and leave mid-performance, perhaps they just need a large dose of manners?


Andrew Jones (far left) and Gethin Liddington (2nd from left) in action with the Phil Dando Big Band

For more details about Andrew Jones and Music for You, please visit the following website.

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