We attended the Seattle Symphony again last night, the second of the three annual “Baroque” concerts. The original conductor wasn’t able to be there, but his stand in was excellent. Wonderful presence, fun to watch, great to listen to. I was intrigued by the first violist who was highly energetic — fun to watch, and an excellent musician. The concertmistress was similarly interesting to watch, which made for a very fun show.
Trying to remember what the music was, I know the composers: Handel (symphony in G minor maybe?), Alessandro Marcello, J.C. Bach and Jean-Philippe Rameau’s Dardanus. The music was excellent, engaging and well-executed.
But our experience was marred slightly by a couple things from the audience. The first piece, by Handel was interrupted after each movement. The audience didn’t understand that applause is held until the end of the entire piece! Or, on the rare occasion that a solo is completely exquisite… but that is highly unusual. Hold your applause until the conductor drops his arms and the musicians relax their hands/lower their instruments.
After Handel, the ushers allowed more people into the hall (note, it is appropriate to leave the hall during a piece for medical or other emergencies, but one never enters the hall while music is being played). Two young women sat down behind us, and before they were fully settled, I bolted for the door. Why? Because they were wearing enough perfume to drown an elephant. And I am sensitive to most fragrances in small amounts. The ushers found me a spot toward the back of the hall, away from other people. I was upset by having to move TWO CONCERTS IN A ROW because someone was wearing perfume in quantity sufficient to chase me out. A hundred years ago most scents were organic, somewhat rare, and highly expensive. One wore just enough to offset body odor. Today, perfumes are usually synthetic, readily available, and really inexpensive. That doesn’t mean you need to bathe in it — remember that scent interferes with taste as well as smell, and for those who are sensitized, it can be dangerous. Be subtle in your use of scents, only the person close enough to hug should notice what you smell like. Don’t wear extra perfume to concerts or restaurants.
Finally, there are always people who need to cough, sneeze, blow their noses, or otherwise be human. Do so discretely, leave the hall if you have to completely clear your lungs. Unlike a movie or a rock concert, where the sound comes from many directions (and is quite loud) live acoustic music is more easily lost in background noise. This time of year, cold and flu season, you’re going to cough, sniffle or need to blow your nose. It happens. But what doesn’t have to happen is rustling papers, whispering to your companions or any of a myriad other common but impolite noise making. Basically, if you must make noise during the music (more than the single, occasional cough) leave the hall discretely.
Other than that, the concert was again lovely. It was nice to see so many children there with their parents, and many young adults. By and large, the patrons of the Seattle Symphony are polite, interested people. They enjoy the music, they enjoy their night out. Benaroya Hall is an excellent venue, comfortable, easy to get to and well-appointed.