Although the survey is still open, I created a cutoff point at 3:30p.m. CT in order to tabulate the responses…
As mentioned in yesterday’s article, I think the results are fairly interesting along the lines of how respondents identified themselves as managers, musicians, board members, or listeners.
One of the most notable results was that not a single respondent identified themselves as a board member and there was a noticeable prevalence of respondents that identified themselves as musicians. However, this isn’t a large surprise since the survey link was published on a few discussion boards and websites that are popular with mostly musicians. The chart below illustrates the overall breakdown between how respondents identified themselves.
In general, respondents favored a more liberal point of view in favor of applause between movements, especially when indicated by the conductor. Almost 2/3 of respondents think the current atmosphere at most orchestra concerts is too pretentious, as illustrated in the chart below.
How Managers Responded
Among all of the respondent groups, managers were the most liberal, although not always by a large percentage. Although a clear majority of managers prefer to place the burden of indicating when it is and is not acceptable to applaud on the shoulders of the conductor, a sizeable percentage still feel that proactive measures are justified when it comes to letting patrons know that it is acceptable to applaud between movements.
With more than four out of five managerial respondents feeling that most concerts are too pretentious, I’m surprised there isn’t more of an overall effort to change the atmosphere among many organizations. Although I was expecting more managers than not to respond this way, I didn’t think there would be such a large disparity, as illustrated in the chart below.
How Musicians Responded
Nearly the same percentage of musicians sided with managers on the issue of finding it acceptable to applaud between movements if the conductor takes responsibility for guiding the audience. However, musicians were nearly spilt 50/50 when it came to the issue of whether or not orchestras should expend some effort to let patrons know it is acceptable to applaud between movements.
With regard to pretentiousness, nearly 2/3 of musicians feel the atmosphere for most concerts could lighten up. Although this wasn’t as large of a majority as managers, it is still just enough to say it is a mainstream opinion, as illustrated in the chart below.
How Listeners Responded
By far, the most conservative respondents were listeners. Only 16% were in favor of applauding between movements if indicated by the conductor. Conversely, more than half feel that orchestras should not encourage listeners to applaud between movements. After reading Christopher Guerin’s comment from last Friday, that attitude hasn’t changed much in the past decade.
Unquestionably, the most conservative of all responses resulted from the final question; listeners don’t think the concert atmosphere is too pretentious. Although I’m not terribly surprised by this fact (after all, core listeners are always eager to complain when organizations experiment with changes) I am intrigued by the large difference between how listeners and managers/musicians feel about the issue, as illustrated in the chart below.
Clearly, those who present and create classical music feel things need to change, yet those who consume it feel otherwise. I would be interested to know even more about the respondents who identified themselves listeners. Are these people mostly veteran concert-goers or are they also infrequent listeners?
Knowing whether or not that distinction would result in contrary results would be quite useful. At the same time, I think a number of orchestras know that there’s a distinct difference between how veteran and new listeners interpret the concert atmosphere. Nevertheless, I think it would be intriguing if some managers out there shared their research and personal experience on the issue.
Regardless Of What You Decide, Stick With It
Long time Adaptistration reader, Janet Shapiro of Brandenburg Productions, Inc. sent in a truly entertaining story about how one conductor decided to deal with the issue of rampant applause between movements. If nothing else, it is a good reminder that practice doesn’t make perfect, practice makes permanent.
Background: [my company] produced a TV broadcast of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s celebration of its 50th anniversary. We interviewed a number of players who’d been with the symphony for most or all of its years. One of the players told the following story (alas, my transcripts are somewhere in file purgatory, so I’m not sure who the player was):
Henry Sopkin, the original conductor of the ASO, got very annoyed at audiences during performance’s of Tchaikovsky’s Pathetique Symphony, because they (like many other audiences) would spontaneously burst into applause after the rousing third movement, and but applause would be much more tepid at the end of the entire piece. When he took the orchestra on tour to the smaller cities of Georgia he actually REVERSED the playing order of the third and fourth movements, so that the performance would end with the rousing third movement, and the orchestra would get the accolades he felt it deserved.
At the end of a tour, when he and the ASO performed the piece in Atlanta in front of what he felt was a more sophisticated audience, he realized that such rearranging would not be acceptable, and the orchestra played the piece in the correct order. As always, after the third movement, the audience burst into applause. At that point, forgetting where he was and thinking the piece was over, Sopkin turned around, took a major bow, and left the stage.