Sunday, September 23, 2007

Thank you, thank you – you’re too, too kind!

There have been several times when performing that it’s not been appropriate for the audience to show their appreciation. Once was at a funeral, and most recently, at a wedding. There was also a time when we did a concert in a church and the first song was met with silence. I subtly mentioned to the audience that they were allowed to clap if they chose to and from then on it was just like a normal concert. I guess people thought that since they were in a church it wasn’t appropriate to clap!

To be fair, at the recent wedding there was applause after we had finished our little set when the vicar thanked us for singing. Of course, at the funeral, it simply wasn’t fitting. I was singing at the funeral and it was then that I realised how much I had become used to applause after each song. It was very, very strange to perform a song and have no feedback whatsoever. It can be similar when performing outdoors in a public space and people are just passing by.

Why do we need the applause? After all, it’s pretty much a convention. It’s quite rare that people don’t applaud at all. Sometimes it may be more enthusiastic or longer, but usually there’s some kind of smattering. So it’s not as if we need approval since the audience will probably clap under most circumstances. Maybe it’s just for us to know that they’ve actually heard us, whether they’ve enjoyed it or not.

In many cultures the idea of the separation between audience and performers is an alien one. Everybody is a performer, and everyone is an audience at the same time. The ‘performers’ are not special in any way, they haven’t spent time rehearsing and polishing, they just perform – singing, dancing, whatever – because that’s what everybody does in that culture. So the notion of applause and appreciation is not relevant.

Sometimes applause can be a little embarrassing. Many of our songs are very, very short so we can get through up to 30 songs in any one concert. On those occasions it feels like we’re expecting the audience to clap every few minutes (which they do), but it does feel a little like overkill. Also, with a big choir like Woven Chords which has around 80 members, it can be a little awkward when we make our first entrance. As the first few singers enter onto the stage there is enthusiastic applause which slowly but surely begins to die out as the audience realise that there are many, many more choir members to appear yet

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Chris Rowbury


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