Sweet wrappers and a guest blogger.

I talk at every concert I play….. One of the things I always ask people to do is unwrap all the sweets they are going to ‘need’ for the next hour. It gets a laugh every time – but it’s a real hate of mine. I don’t understand why people do this, because everyone can hear them doing it.

I have numerous people contact me after concerts to say thank you – and they nearly always refer to this. They tell me about other concerts they were at, and how all they could hear were sweet wrappers going.

Last week I was contacted by Daniel, who emailed me something he’d written, which I loved…. So I have copied it here for you all. Enjoy!


“Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen. Welcome to the Concert Hall of the Sydney Opera House. Tonight’s performance is about to commence, so please ensure that your mobile phones are switched off. You are reminded that photography is not permitted in the auditorium at any stage. Please enjoy the performance.

If you are still in the foyer and are hearing this message, you have about 30 seconds to get to your seats as the policy has changed; you will no longer be admitted during the performance or during the break between movements. Future concerts will start dead on time. If you have trouble getting here by that time, leave home 30 minutes earlier or you will risk missing the first half of the concert.

[pause] Actually, tonight is my first night on the microphone and, if you’ll excuse me, I have a few things to get off my chest.

What I am about to say might be stating the obvious, but experience tells me it is necessary.

On the subject of mobile phones, please note that “off” does not mean “switched to silent” as, in the quiet of the concert hall, we can still hear the vibrations, and the light of the screen is very distracting, not to mention the fiddling around in your bag or pocket to get the phone out to read and/or reply to your text messages. Further more, electronic transmissions will interfere with our recording equipment. In case I have not been clear, “off” means powered down. Some of you may feel compelled to turn it on again at interval so I will be repeating this message, because mobile phones going off in the second half of the program are just as disruptive as in the first. Strange that.

Most obvious of all, do not talk or even whisper during the performance. No matter how softly you do it, you will be disturbing people’s listening. Other bodily noises such as sniffing, snorting, grunting etc are right out. Many people do these things unconsciously, so if you notice people glaring at you when you think you haven’t done anything, this is probably you.

Coughing is the scourge of the concert hall. Many people simply feel free to cough whenever and as loudly and unrestrainedly as they please. This is definitely not alright. If you are really sick, stay home. Otherwise be prepared to go to great lengths to avoid coughing. If there is any chance you may cough anyway, take out your handkerchief before the music starts and lay it on your lap so that when the cough does come you can muffle your mouth and nose and do it as quietly as possible. The same applies to sneezes. If an involuntary one cannot be suppressed, at least muffle it.

Enjoy the music by all means but tapping hands or feet, nodding your head or conducting are not going to impress those around you, no matter how much better than them you know the music. The wiggling of any body parts in time with the music, or out of time for that matter, is just not cool. Try sitting on your hands if your find it hard to restrain yourself.

As it happens I know a thing or two about acoustics and the physiology of the ear. If you have ever been exposed to very loud noise, including rock concerts in your misspent youth, you will have suffered permanent hearing loss, particularly in the very high frequencies above 15 MHz. Probably not badly enough for you to notice, but here is the thing. If you unwrap a cough lolly, move your arms while holding a plastic bag, turn the page on the program, fiddle with your bag, your clothing or just about anything, even if you hear nothing yourself, there will be people around you who do hear it, loudly and clearly. I have heard people unwrapping lollies across the other side of the auditorium. Unwrapping it slowly makes just prolongs the agony. If you must fiddle or are likely to need a cough lolly, get it out and unwrap it before the music starts. Plastic water bottles are another problem. The plastic crackles while you handle it; please take your swigs before the music starts; then put the bottle away. Eating of any sort is of course out of the question.

Items fall from people’s laps, usually with a thump. It is better to put all items on the floor under your seat where you won’t kick them. If you do drop something, don’t add insult to injury by then proceeding to make more fuss picking it up.

Please don’t clap between movements.  Check your program before the piece starts to see how many movements there are.  Usually the conductor will give you a visual queue by dropping their hands when the piece is done. Clapping between movements disturbs that magic moment of anticipation of what is coming next.

All this is common consideration for others. In short, sit still, absolutely still, do not move, do not make a sound. You may breathe, but only if you do so quietly.

At the end of the performance you will leave the auditorium having enjoyed every smallest nuance in the music because of the wonderful stillness and respect of the other members of the audience. You will have the music ringing in your ears. What a delight. A delight that is, until you have to walk past the Opera Bar where you will have all those lovely reverberations totally obliterated by garishly amplified noise being thumped out over their PA. Can one of those people who dash out during the final applause please “accidentally” knock the plug from the powerpoint as a service to the rest of us? Your lack of respect might as well be put to good use. The people who run the Opera House obviously think the noise is a good idea for a bit of extra revenue raising. One wonder’s what Jan Utzon would have thought of that: approach the Opera House steps like a temple with reverence; leave it swimming in aural pollution… The policy was probably signed off by some MBA who doesn’t know a bar of music from a bar of soap. When you get home, if all of you send the them an email and state the bleeding obvious, maybe some common sense might prevail.

I am sorry, I seem to have strayed somewhat from my original brief but in short, please have a good evening and enjoy the concert in utter peace and quiet.


[pause] Clearly by this time tomorrow I am going to be unemployed, but it was worth it.  So if anyone has a job for me…”