If you’ve never been to a classical concert before they can perhaps present a daunting prospect, but they really needn’t be. As Southbank Centre’s Director of Music, Gillian Moore, explains here, there is no right way or wrong way of listening to music. However there are little things you can do to help make the most of the experience.
Whether you’re joining us for an orchestra or an intimate recital, here are Gillian Moore’s top tips for a happy concert experience.
1. Love and embrace the experience of sitting in a comfortable seat with no distractions; free from phones, devices and the world outside, listening to glorious music for an hour or two.
2. Some people prefer to turn up and let the music surprise them. Others prefer to come prepared, having read up on the performers or compositions – both approaches are equally valid.
3. Speaking personally, I find that the more I put in, the more I get out of the concert experience. You may find it interesting to know more about composers or performers. Or to know information about the music you are going to hear, including where, when and why it was written, and things to listen out for in the music. There are some fascinating stories out there. If you don’t know the music, you could read up about it on the internet beforehand, or arrive early, get a drink and buy a programme; or attend a pre-concert talk if there is one.
4. When the music is playing, try to remain as silent as you possibly can – there are often a lot of very quiet and delicate moments in the pieces performed.
5. Don't forget to check, double-check and check again that your mobile phone is switched off. (I have been caught out before, and with a particularly embarrassing ringtone it’s not great for you or the other concert goers).
6. When the music stops, clap if you want to. There is a convention not to clap between movements, but it’s not a strict one.
7. Wear what you like; dress up or dress down. The most important thing is that you feel comfortable. Here at Southbank Centre, anything goes.
8. Be nice to the person sitting next to you, even if they break one of these rules. After all this might also be their first concert.
9. Experiment with different seats in the concert hall. It’s not always the case that the most expensive seats give the best experience. As an example, the choir stalls in the Royal Festival Hall – behind the orchestra and facing the audience – are among the cheapest, but put you right in the middle of the action.
10. Be relaxed; don't worry if you zone out for a bit, if your attention wanders. The music will still be there when your mind finds its way back.
11. And finally, simply embrace the feeling of having an intense experience in the company of hundreds or thousands of strangers; sometimes it really can seem that the whole audience is breathing together.
Southbank Centre’s 2019/20 series features over 200 incredible classical concerts including celebrations of Beethoven’s 250th birthday and a special series running alongside Hayward Gallery’s exhibition of Bridget Riley. Discover some of the most exciting artists, conductors, orchestras and ensembles the world over with us.