Audience Etiquette

Last week Radio 4 featured an exposé on audience etiquette following the scolding Neil Young gave his audience after they clapped along with one of his songs. He was performing in the prestigious Carnegie Hall in New York City, but to be fair to the audience…it was Neil Young. People attend a Neil Young concert because they want to sing and clap along to the songs they know. Click Here to read about Neil Young’s response to his audience and all the media attention it received.

This story was the exact opposite of a situation I experienced just a few weeks before when playing at a lovely assisted living facility in Leamington Spa. I was hired to play Christmas carols for the home’s Christmas gathering with mulled wine and minced pies. A lovely idea and the harp looked magical in the room with the elaborately decorated Christmas tree and the party go-ers dressed up in their finest frocks and suits.

I started with the beautiful Coventry Carol and Greensleeves then moved on to Waltz of the Flowers from the Nutcracker Suite. By this time I thought they were warmed up and ready for a bit of a sing-along. So I encouraged them to join me on Away In A Manager. No luck. Not a one. “Surely Silent Night will get them singing”, I thought to myself. A few people hummed along and there was some sporadic singing, but nothing like my vision of a rousing chorus singing along with the harp! An animated rendition of Jingle Bells did get them going, and Up On The Rooftop kept the momentum going until the sherry and mince pies were served…then I was on my own again.

My American roots lead me to believe that audience participation is a given at many concerts and events, unless the audience is expressly asked to keep quiet, as is the case at the opera, the ballet, professional symphony performances and even when watching country music acts at the famous Bluebird Café in Nashville.

I appreciate audience participation and am grateful for those who take the time to talk with me after a musical set or performance, as the feedback about what they heard, enjoyed and maybe even disliked is so valuable.

So take a look at my performance schedule and feel free to pop over and say Hello. Or clap and sing along, that way I’ll know you recognise, and appreciate, what I’m playing!

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"Everyone was very much impressed with the music, especially as it was the first time many of them had seen a live harpist." Officer Patrick Mulligan
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