Archive for the ‘Concert’ Category

Service of Please Pass the Caffeine: Performing in Front of Nappers

Monday, July 1st, 2024

I was at a wonderful concert last week in an intimate setting. The soloist played a clarinet accompanied by an accomplished pianist.

Near me was an ancient person who immediately fell asleep. We were in the second row, almost in front of the clarinet player. Surely, he saw Mr. Sleepy.

Because of the fellow’s advanced age, the musician couldn’t have been insulted though it is distracting to see someone snoozing while you play your heart out—or deliver a speech.

I once had a boss who regularly fell asleep during presentations. My colleagues and I wouldn’t look at one another as we might have begun to giggle. A friend whose boss was known to imbibe at lunch and sleep through afternoon pitches scheduled all such meetings in the morning.

I imagine there are plenty of parishioners who snooze during boring–or even fascinating–sermons.

And watching someone text while you speak or perform must be unnerving.

Have you been confronted by a somnolent audience? Did you have a colleague or boss with tendencies to catnap?

Service of a Perfect Evening Enhanced by Stellar Customer Service

Monday, March 11th, 2024

Great service turned a wonderful evening into a spectacular one.

It began with an excellent dinner at Fiorella’s, an enormous, popular restaurant across from Lincoln Center that’s hopping with happy patrons especially before performances. It nevertheless serves excellent food and provides professional, top-notch service.

Next we went to hear the Quartetto di Cremona at the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in Alice Tully Hall. The two violinists, a cellist and violist chose to play pieces by Dmitri Shostakovich, Osvaldo Golijov and Franz Schubert.

The Italian town of Cremora, known for producing fine violins, is in Lombardy, on the Po River’s left bank, 85 miles from Milan. One of the violins played by the musicians, a Cremona, was made in 1640. The other instruments were made in different Italian cities and dated from 1680 to 1758. But I digress.

As Shostakovich’s Quartet No. 8 began, I asked myself, “what tip did I leave the waiter?” followed by the realization that I’d not signed the check, that my credit card remained in the folder and my heart sank.

I dashed out of Alice Tully Hall during intermission and asked the guard to remember me and let me in again. He laughed and reassured me that there would be no problem.

I sprinted back to Fiorella’s, the host opened a drawer with a bunch of credit cards, and there was mine between an American Express Gold Card and a silver card of some sort. The host found the waiter who had the check, I added a tip—I was upset about this omission as well–and hurried back to Lincoln Center. The restaurant was clearly used to lamebrain customers like me and were not concerned that they had been stiffed.

At the end of the concert, after a standing ovation, we started to descend the stairs towards an exit when an usher rushed over to say that there would be one—maybe two—encores. If we left the auditorium, he said, we couldn’t get back in. The quartet’s choice of Puccini was divine. We were grateful to the proactive usher.

We learned something on the 68th Street crosstown bus where a bunch of us, who had exited Lincoln Center, started to speak. One woman kept referring to her “group.” We asked her “what group were you with?” She explained that she was an usher and that each usher is responsible for a portion of the concert hall. That explained why “our” usher raced down the stairs to inform us of the encore. She also told us why we enjoyed only one. “You didn’t clap vigorously enough!” She debunked what a coat check staffer told us—that there was only five minutes left according to union rules so it didn’t leave enough time for more music. She said, “They don’t know anything.”

Do you rejoice when perfect service enhances a flawless evening? Does it happen often?

Service of Reserving a Hard-to-Get Ticket

Thursday, April 20th, 2023

I think I now know a little about what it’s like to try to get a ticket to a Springsteen or Rhianna concert even though all I wanted was two timed tickets to the “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty” member preview at the Met Museum.

Usually, museum members get to choose from four consecutive days to visit an exhibition at their leisure before it opens to the public. We just show up.  For Lagerfeld, there were only two possible member-only days, a Tuesday and a Thursday, 10 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

We learned about the drill a month ago in an email that notified members that timed tickets were required and couldn’t be ordered before noon on April 18.

I marked my calendar, was happy I remembered and then, even though my laptop and iPad were open to the notice, it took me 10 frantic minutes to find a hotlink to reserve a time. By then, I was number 783 in the virtual line and the estimated time to get to the front of it was over an hour. I was advised to look for the next email to confirm my spot and then to keep an eye out for another email that would return me to the line.

And, we were warned to take care, because the place in line would only be kept for a certain amount of time once the museum tagged the hopeful member. I forget how long I had to respond because I didn’t pay attention: I was keeping my eye on my email box.

All went well, I got the day and time I wanted or so I thought until the confirmation showed up with two times: One 10:00 a.m., at the top and the other, which was noon, the time I’d requested. [Photo below].

Once I read the fine print, I saw that the first time—10:00 a.m.–was when the exhibition opened. It was meaningless information on a ticket for noon entry. I wonder how many people won’t read the mouse type instructions and will be confused by the two times on their e-tickets. I predict that either there will be a crowd at 10:00 or the membership office will be inundated with calls.

I got it into my head that I would see this exhibition in preview just as music fans focus on acquiring concert tickets no matter what. I’m curious: Do most people have time to do this more than once or do they hire someone to do the ticket-acquiring for them or do they take days off from work?

Service of Theater and Concert Etiquette

Thursday, June 16th, 2022

National Youth Festival Chorus at Carnegie Hall June 13, 2022

I first wrote about theater etiquette in 2014 where I shared a friend’s experiences seated near audience scofflaws at a few Broadway shows. In one she suffered through the noise created by a woman behind her. First, her raincoat that she sat on crinkled every time she fidgeted, which was often. Next, there was the sound of her opening candy wrappers and finally her loud whisper to her companion asking what time it was that drove my friend to say “shush.” At another show, a woman next to her mother texted throughout the performance, tap, tap, tapping away with the light on her phone an added distraction.

The set of “And Then There Were None” at The Robert Moss Theater at Playwrights Downtown, NYC

A year later I mentioned that Patti LuPone ripped the phone out of a woman’s hand without missing a beat as she played a diva, Irene, in “Shows for Days” at Lincoln Center because, said LuPone afterwards, the lit screen disrupts audience members and actors alike. She is known for such reactions to audience members who irritate her. This May, during a Q and A after a performance of “Company,” she called out a member of the audience whose mask had slipped below her nose.

This week I attended “Songs of Renewal” at Carnegie Hall to hear choruses and choirs–voice and clarinet–and chamber singers. In seats in front of me was a child about 9 who could not sit still and her parents. On and off went her sweater. She was on her mother’s lap and then in her seat and then back again on mom, squirming, facing backwards, then forwards. Her parents were oblivious to how her performance impacted those nearby. I was thrilled when they left before the end [which many did. It was late for a school night]. A few rows ahead of us young people in their late teens took some freed up seats. Although masks were required, they were oblivious. Two of four began to make out as though they were at home alone. One never pulled up her mask after that.

In contrast, the next night I saw a spot-on performance by the St. Bart’s Players in Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None,” at The Robert Moss Theater at Playwrights Downtown. In a diminutive space holding 50, the audience was perfectly behaved. My host mentioned that although many had friends in the topnotch cast, they didn’t break the rhythm of the performance by applauding at each entrance.

I recall a New York Times restaurant review many years ago by Mimi Sheraton. The food and service were perfect but the fight by customers at the next table reduced the grade she gave the place. Theaters don’t give etiquette or personality tests to audience members–though both Carnegie Hall and The Robert Moss Theater checked for vaccinations and required masks. At the latter, in addition to turning off our phones, we were asked not to open noisy candy wrappers. I just checked out the Ricola lozenges that Carnegie Hall has made available for decades to avert coughing jags. The wrapper is silent when you open it.

Do you have pet peeves about audience behavior when attending a concert, musical or play?

Service of Arts Attendance

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

Alexander Forbes wrote “Why Falling Arts Attendance Has Major Implications for the US Economy,” in artnet.com. He based his arguments on the result of National Endowment for the Arts {NEA} studies.

Attendance at musical performances—jazz, classical, opera, musical theatre—as well as plays, ballet, art museums and galleries, all of which he called “benchmark activities,” have declined between 1992, where 41 percent of US adults attended at least one, and 20 years later, in 2012. That year, 21 percent visited a gallery or art museum and 33 percent went to any benchmark activity.

Of those who attended an event, 73 percent “said their main reason for doing so was to socialize with friends or family, while 22 percent who wanted to participate in an arts activity but didn’t, say it was because they didn’t have someone to join them,” wrote Forbes.

So who is attending, according to the NEA? “Despite similar household incomes and education, people who call themselves middle-class were more likely to attend the arts than those who identified themselves as working class.” Forbes noted the obvious fact that people who define themselves as working class may be working on weekends and evenings when events take place and museums and galleries are open.

He reported that the misunderstanding by some that arts are “for elites by elites,” is worse than before. “Anti-arts rhetoric has become particularly malignant in the years since the economic collapse with many populist-leaning politicians worldwide attacking the arts as unnecessary luxuries that one percent-ers like to enjoy and make the rest of us pay for.”

So what do the arts contribute to US GDP? Forbes wrote $698 billion in 2012 or 4.32 percent of GDP. Note: He clarified that the figure included film, television and advertising industries along with the usual suspects.

Yet he didn’t point out essential information: What percentage of the $698 billion do TV and advertising represent? [I’m giving film the benefit of the doubt and determining that people attend movie theatres though clearly Netflix sales count in this number.] He compared the total to the construction industry with “only” a $586 billion contribution to GDP and transportation and warehousing–$464 billion.

Forbes highlighted the trade surplus generated by the arts–$25 billion—which, given that we don’t export a great deal these days since we stopped manufacturing much, is significant. He also reported that “for every 100 new jobs created in the arts, 62 new jobs are created, on average, in other industries.” And: “For every dollar of increased spending on artworks, $1.98 of total economic output is created. In the case of museums, every new dollar of demand creates $1.76 of gains.”

Do you think that the impact on this country’s economy of fewer people attending “benchmark arts activities” will be as damaging as Forbes suggests should the downward slide continue? Do you attend such events to socialize? If nobody is free to go with you, do you stay home? Are there other potentially dire consequences of this downward trend?

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