Young Ambassador Review: John Lill's 70th

West Lothian's Young Ambassador, Rebecca Smith, describes John Lill's 70th in the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on Sat 1 Feb 2014.
Stravinsky Symphonies of Wind Instruments
Schubert Symphony No. 4
Brahms Piano Concerto No. 1
Douglas Boyd (Conductor)
John Lill (Piano)
It was a great change to open the concert with just the wind players. The players brought out each melodic line and shaped it wonderfully.
I enjoyed the Schubert symphony after having had the theme explained to us at the pre-concert talk. This symphony really sticks out amongst the other music of the time, and was very refreshing.
John Lill was warmly received by the audience, his unique musicality shining through at 70 years of age. The slow movement was particularly moving, played with clarity and flawless technique.
As a Young Ambassador, I was struck by one audience member who chose to voice his opinion rather loudly during the interval. He seemed very angry that one young person sitting near me had coughed a few times during the first half, making jokes such as ‘my favourite composer is Tchi-cough-ski’, and saying that she should not have come to the concert. The girl was offered cough sweets by two audience members who made it clear that they were unhappy about her coughing.
I found it very strange that audience members sought to control the concert environment. They chose to exclude a girl, who could very well have been asthmatic, from enjoying the music. Many people coughed during the performance, as in every concert, but they chose to approach this young girl over any other audience members. I found it very uncomfortable and discouraging to listen to this man who seemed to think that a teenager was not mature enough to be in a classical music environment, which is simply not true. Funnily enough, the principal trumpet player also seemed to have a bad cough, but no one tried to exclude him from enjoying the music like they had with the girl.
Usually I can deal with sonic disruption from the audience, and normally focus on the music rather than the people around me. However, I have gone to many concerts alone where I have seen older people around me staring at me. I know that I have a much greater understanding of music than the average concert goer, so I don’t let it put me off, but it creates a less than welcoming atmosphere I have to say.
Thankfully the group of young people told me after the concert that they had had fun and thought that the performance had been very good. The people who had approached the girl for coughing had not left a lasting impression on her, although their attitude had struck me.
If we hope to encourage more young people to classical music, perhaps we should try to educate the audience that any listener has the right to enjoy the concert, whether they have a beeping hearing aid, a cough or otherwise. I don’t think that it is right for anyone to tell anyone else off for something like a cough, because that is very different from asking politely.
In a normal situation, coughing is not thought of as loud, but as soon as you move to a concert environment, the rules seem to change. Everyone in the concert hall was sitting quietly, with no talking, no ringing phones, no crying babies. If we start to pick on every single noise in a concert hall we are leading into an infinite number of more rules: no air conditioning, no squeaky chairs, no sneezing… the list is endless. Is that really what we should be focusing on, is that why we go to concerts, as a weekly occasion to enforce more social rules on people? Or is it to enjoy the music? I sincerely hope it is the latter.
Rebecca Smith
Concert etiquette is of frequent debate amongst audiences. Read the article by Kate Molleson in The Guardian, published September 2013: A quiet word about classical concert etiquette. Share your own thoughts on Twitter @RSNO
Rebecca is part of the RSNO's Young Ambassador scheme, arranged by the Learning and Engagement Department. All opinions expressed by Young Ambassadors are that of the individual and are not representative of the RSNO. For more information, visit the RSNO website.
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