I’ve never been to an orchestra concert before. What should I expect?

This post was written by Barb Apr 18, 2017 in Arts, Events, Health & Wellness

Here are a few friendly tips to help you experience a classical music concert with comfort and confidence. 

Will I recognize any of the music?

You might! Classical music is all around us: in commercials, movie soundtracks, television themes, cartoons, retail shops, and even some elevators.  Open yourself up to the music. Feel the rhythms; follow the tunes. Watch the musicians and the conductor and see how they interact with each other. The music will speak for itself. Many orchestras offer pre-concert talks in the lobby before the performance that last about 20 minutes.

What should I wear?

There is no dress code! The days of monocles and top hats are over (unless you want to wear that). Some concert goers like to dress up a little, while others opt for the comfort of jeans and t-shirts. Wear what makes you comfortable and best represents yourself. One tip though – please don't wear perfume or cologne - it can distract others and even prompt them to sneeze (which may distract you).

How will I find my seat?

Even the most experienced audience member may need help with seat locations.  Be assured, you won’t need a map or a compass.  Any usher will be more than happy to guide you.  If you arrive after a performance has begun, the ushers will do their best to seat you during an appropriate pause in the program. However, late seating is not always available at all performances so do your best to arrive on time.

Time to unplug.

Once you’re seated, turn off your phone. Don’t even put it on vibrate. Classical music has its quiet moments when even the buzz of a phone can be heard clearly.


How will I know when the concert is about to begin?

When you first take your seat, you will notice that several of the musicians may already be on stage. Don’t worry; you’re not late. When all of the members of the orchestra are seated, the lights will dim, and the Concertmaster (lead violinist) will stand and signal to the oboe player to play the note A. The rest of the orchestra will then tune their instruments to match the oboe. The conductor will enter the stage,  bow to the audience, turn around and begin the concert.


Can we talk?

Even the quietest whispers can be heard in the theatre and can prove to be a distraction to audiences and musicians alike. Save your comments until intermission or after the concert, it will give you and your friends much more to discuss.


Is it time to clap yet?

This can be a little tricky but here are the basics. Always clap at the entrance of the Concertmaster, the Conductor, and any guest soloists.  Most classical works are broken down into parts called movements, the number of which will generally be outlined in your program.  While there is often a brief pause between each movement, the tradition is that applause should only occur at the end of the work and not in between movements.  When the conductor drops his or her hands and turns around to acknowledge the audience, it’s time to clap.  And if you really love what you heard, feel free to shout out ‘bravo’!

Sense a sneeze coming on?

Don’t go to a concert if you have a bad cough or cold.  But, if you’re past the contagious stage and it’s just a pesky cough, make sure to have a few unwrapped cough drops at the ready.  If you can’t suppress a cough, it’s perfectly acceptable to step out of the theatre until you feel better.


Can I bring my kids?

It depends on the concert and on the age of your kids. Many standard length classical concerts may be beyond the attention span of small children. When they’re old enough to sit quietly for an extended period, you may want to bring them to the first half of a concert. In all cases, it’s a good idea to check with the orchestra directly about the appropriateness of the concert you plan to attend with your kids.


Classical music concert opportunities in North Vancouver.

Lions Gate Sinfonia

Vancouver Symphony Orchestra – North Shore Classics Series

Pro Nova Chamber Music

Classics at the Gordon Smith Gallery of Canadian Art


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