Performance Etiquette

Concert performances are a large and lovely part of the live-music scene in Door County. Although attending orchestra and ensemble performances may not be your typical activity, we encourage everyone to check out one of these great performances around the county.

If you’re attending a more formal concert for the first time, however, it can be a little intimidating if you aren’t familiar with the etiquette. Here are some guidelines to follow so that you can attend concerts with confidence.

No talking during the piece

Unlike listening to bands in bars – which often includes talking to other bar-goers and singing along to the songs – this is a quiet-audience environment. Aside from it being common courtesy not to talk (or whisper or rustle candy or cough-drop wrappers), you may start to talk during a silence that’s built into the piece or during the silence between movements (parts of a longer work) before the piece is actually over. It’s safe to speak only during applause, and if you can hold your coughs until there’s applause, that’s best, too.

Know when to clap

This is probably one of the most confusing aspects of concert performances. Unlike songs that have an obvious start and end, classical pieces often consist of multiple movements. Typically, the conductor takes a short pause between movements, but don’t applaud because the piece is not over.

An easy way to make the distinction between the end of a movement and the end of the entire piece is to watch whether the conductor puts down the baton (the stick used to direct the ensemble). At the start of each piece, the baton goes up – and stays up – until the entire piece is finished.

It’s also a good idea to look through the program before the performance begins so you’re familiar with the flow of the concert. The program lists each piece and each individual movement within each piece. You can count the silences between movements to determine how many movements have passed until the whole piece is finished.

If you lose track of the movements or are in doubt, just wait to see whether the audience begins to applaud. You don’t need to start the applause.

Turn off cell phones

This is another thing you don’t have to worry about in some other live-music settings. When sitting down to enjoy a classical concert, however, turning your phone off completely is the best option because shifting it to silent may still generate a noise if you have alarms or notifications set. And turn it off right away when you arrive so that you don’t forget; there may not be a reminder before the concert starts. If you do choose to keep your phone on to take photos, make sure the flash is turned off, and be very discreet when snapping the shots.

Remain seated

If you must get up during a performance, wait until the piece is completely finished and the audience is applauding. Don’t re-enter the performance space until the next round of applause.