Dear Lady Who Was Sitting in the Middle of Row E at the Polish Baltic Philharmonic Orchestra’s All-Beethoven Concert, Enlow Recital Hall, Kean University, Hillside, New Jersey, February 6, 2016, between 7:30 and 9:30 pm:
I think it’s really cool that you brought your three young children to an orchestral performance, I really do. Audiences for classical music are starting to dwindle nowadays, and if classical music is to survive, it needs the support of the younger generation–like your three delightful little children.
But still, I would like to point out to you that
There is no talking during a classical performance.
Let me rephrase that.
Speaking is not allowed during the performance.
Or as Yoda might say.
Not allowed is speaking during a classical concert.
Speaking during the performance is, in short, verboten.
No, you cannot speak for any reason. Not softly. Not in a whisper. No, you cannot muffle the noise you’re making as you speak by making other kinds of noise, like unwrapping candy or shuffling loudly in your seat. I know this sounds mean-spirited and pedantic, but you cannot even engage your children in a Socratic dialogue about the performance itself, e.g., asking sweetie whether she “likes” the D Major Violin Concerto, or asking, out loud, after the first movement of the Fifth Symphony, whether “that’s it.” (It wasn’t.)
No, you cannot point out during the Egmont Overture that the curly metal instrument is a French horn (though it was), or interrupt a cadenza of the violin concerto to verbalize the fact that the violinist is “really good” (however true that may have been). Counter-intuitive as this may sound, a concert hall is not the place for a music lesson. It’s a place where people listen to and watch the performance following the adult rule of shutting the hell up while it’s taking place.
Ahem. Look, the truth is that I’m actually a pretty nice guy. My ex’s tell me I’m a little rough around the edges, a little quick to spew hate (rancor, bile…) in all directions, but deep inside–a perfectly nice guy. I just, really, really like Beethoven. I like to hear it performed. I like to hear it performed. I like to hear it performed. Is that too much to ask?
I’m not saying, “Don’t talk to your kids.” No, not at all. I’m not even saying, “Don’t talk to your kids about Beethoven.” Who am I to dictate how you raise your kids, or what to say to them? Say whatever you want to them. I mean, what do I know? I don’t even have kids.
I don’t like kids. Actually, I hate kids. And it’s not like I’m against kids or anything. Kids are important. As Shakespeare once put it, “the world must be peopled.” And kids are a big part of that. (By the way, don’t talk during Shakespeare, either.)
My point is, there are so many places where you can talk to your kids–the local park, your house, a sports bar, etc. You can even play Beethoven while you do it. It’s just that a concert hall is not one of those places, at least not during the performance. Kids are great, but that doesn’t mean they’re entirely portable.
So I just want to make a request. Please don’t do this again. If you want to see a classical concert, please please keep quiet during the performance. Seriously. If the kids are the issue, just leave them at home. Because if we end up at another concert together, and you repeat last night’s behavior, I’m going to have to khawajaenate you. And your little kids, too. You don’t know what that means? Don’t make me show you.
Ordre des Artes et des Lettres de New Jersey