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Applause During Works Of Religious Significance


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#1 Alexandra

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Posted 29 March 2006 - 11:59 AM

In Clement Crisp's review of the Royal Ballet's current triple bill, he writes this, after a mention of MacMillan's "Requiem."

One complaint: the audience must be asked, before curtain-rise, not to applaud during a work of religious significance. On both Saturday and Tuesday, clapping and baying “bravos” ignored a programme note to this effect.


I wondered how American audiences might react to such a program note, and such a custom (and this may well vary by region). This was once common custom, but in our "anything goes" age, I was curious if it were still generally known, or if things have changed.

#2 Mel Johnson

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Posted 29 March 2006 - 02:24 PM

I'd say it would depend, especially in light of the broad range of appropriate behaviors in American religious life. In a procession, when the priest or bishop appears, the congregation applauds, sometimes. Among some, applause at a well-made point in a sermon, or a well-sung psalm or anthem is perfectly all right, even expected. In some places, vocal exclamation is a norm. In some places, the worshippers are the "Frozen Chosen" and don't make a peep. And of course, in some they just sleep. :(

#3 Farrell Fan

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Posted 29 March 2006 - 02:36 PM

The Verdi Requiem is so wonderfully operatic that I wonder if anyone ever even tried to limit the applause for it. And of course the Pope gets a lot of applause from the faithful, even if he has a shaky voice.

#4 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 29 March 2006 - 02:42 PM

Also, at this point there is so much sacred music used for secular composition I think it desensitizes the audience to the difference. I've seen MacMillan's Requiem only once, but I don't remember feeling like it was a particularly sacred work - no more so than Voluntaries, which is done to secular music that sounds sacred because of the organ.

#5 kfw

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Posted 29 March 2006 - 04:56 PM

That seems a curious mixing of functions on MacMillan's part. His choreographing the piece may have been an act of worship, or at least of solemn remembrance informed by his religious beliefs, but what is the dancer's part in that worship or remembrance, and what is the audience's? I suppose the dancers can just execute the steps with the proper solemnity, but to ask the audience to respond to the piece as he did, or at least to publicly limit their response to the piece -- a piece they've had to pay to see -- to his, seems a lot to ask. Personally, I'd favor honoring his intentions anyhow. That seems only respectful. But I still wonder if the request is appropriate. Isn't it MacMillan's job to elicit the response he wants instead of demanding it?

I'm not asking rhetorically and I haven't seen the piece. I'm just trying to think it through.

#6 dirac

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Posted 29 March 2006 - 05:52 PM

......but to ask the audience to respond to the piece as he did, or at least to publicly limit their response to the piece -- a piece they've had to pay to see -- to his, seems a lot to ask. Personally, I'd favor honoring his intentions anyhow. That seems only respectful. But I still wonder if the request is appropriate. Isn't it MacMillan's job to elicit the response he wants instead of demanding it?


I'm inclined to agree. I’ve seen only bits and pieces of MacMillan’s “Requiem” on video and can’t really make a judgment in this instance (I’d also want to read the text of the program note). However, I wouldn’t think that a ballet audience would need admonishments from the stage or program notes for guidance, and depending on the circumstances such measures could be seen as a tad presumptuous. If the performance conveys a sense of the sacred, no matter if the music or subject matter is formally designated “of religious significance” – a sensitive audience will react appropriately. One hopes. :devil:

#7 perky

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Posted 30 March 2006 - 09:34 AM

To any BalletTalkers who happened to have been there:

When Balanchine staged the Adagio Lamentoso from Tschaikovsky's Symphony No. 6-Pathetique in 1981 did the audience clap at the end? With references to religion and the ending where the boy blows out the candle which some have intrepreted as a reference to Balancine's own mortality I've often wondered at the audiences response and this thread has reminded me of it. Thanks!

#8 Treefrog

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Posted 30 March 2006 - 10:06 AM

My extremely non-religious parents instilled in me the etiquette that one does not clap in church. There was no explanation. It just Wasn't Done.

Times, of course, have changed mightily. At one time, gentlemen simply did not wear hats indoors. Nowadays, one sees baseball caps everywhere. I think some of the old customs -- say, stopping at stop signs -- just are not known or recognized by the general populace these days and it is hopeless to try to enforce the old etiquette.

In addition ... even my ingrained rule of "No Clapping in Church" would not have prevented me from clapping in this instance. For me, the rule applied to the locale, not the performance. In fact ... I do think I would be annoyed at paying for a ticket to the ballet, only to find that I was attending a religious observance. MacMillan may have meant it as a work of religious significance, but for me, once it is taken out of the proper venue for religious observance, i.e. a church, it simply becomes culture. This is where my ingrained rule becomes useful: if I choose to visit a church -- a place of religious significance, in which one expects to observe rituals and performances of religious significance -- I am content to follow the etiquette that demonstrates respect for the customs and observations therein. Outside of the church? All bets are off. Normal concert etiquette prevails.

#9 GoCoyote!

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Posted 30 March 2006 - 10:43 AM

............. In fact ... I do think I would be annoyed at paying for a ticket to the ballet, only to find that I was attending a religious observance. MacMillan may have meant it as a work of religious significance, but for me, once it is taken out of the proper venue for religious observance, i.e. a church, it simply becomes culture.............


I don't see why it has to be taken as a religious observance, whatever MacMillan's intentions were. Surely one can instead take not clapping as a means to create (or at least not disrupt) the atmosphere of this profoundly contemplative and serene piece.

If MacMillan really wanted the audience to remain quiet throughout then I feel that silence becomes a part of the piece too - along with the music and lighting and so on. Why take that aspect way from it? I have seen this ballet performed with and without any capping and I prefer it when the audience doesn't clap. I like the difference ....and why not watch it in silence? - There's certainly enough clapping at ballet the rest of the time! :devil:

#10 dirac

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Posted 30 March 2006 - 06:23 PM

GoCoyote! writes:

There's certainly enough clapping at ballet the rest of the time! :)


Far too much, at times. :thanks: Thanks for your thoughts, GoCoyote!, and welcome. (Thanks also to Alexandra for starting a very interesting topic.

#11 Marcmomus

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Posted 14 February 2010 - 11:52 AM

Applause in (Catholic) churches is now common in Ireland, almost routine, if the priest praises or thanks anyone. I don't like it as mass is claimed to be a sacrament, with trans-substantiation held to be a miracle occuring during each mass, and to me applause dilutes the sanctity the ceremony should warrant. I hold this even though I dwell at the atheistic end of the spectrum of agnosticism and am rarely seen in any church. My stuffy attitude about this and other similar informalities in church causes much amusement among the believers in my family, that is, everyone else. I recall Irish-led applause at the end of a Spanish-Irish family wedding ceremony in the 14th century Basilica in Barcelona a few years ago created overt astonishment among the Spaniards in the congregation.

Applause in the theatre is fine, even for a requiem.

#12 Nanarina

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Posted 14 February 2010 - 12:48 PM

:unsure: I think clapping or applause in the religous works is okay if it is respectful, but the shouting of bravo and stamping feet is not appropriate, until at least the end of the piece.

I find the response of the Cuban audiences rather over the top, and some Japanese young ladies when they scream and shout at a performance. Recently on the TV programme Pop Singer to Opera Singer, the same happened when the performer was a young well known Boy Band Member, it seemed totally out of place. I felt the audience should have been advised how to behave. it was only a few girls, but quite different to the rest of the audience's behavyor.


Actually personally I find it distracting when people keep clapping through a ballet and the dancers have to keep stopping to take a bow. It is fine at the end of a scene or act, and even better to give them lots of curtain calls and shout Bravo (if you think they have excelled) at the end. I wonder what the Dancers themselves think about the subject. :thumbsup:

#13 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 14 February 2010 - 03:49 PM

I find the response of the Cuban audiences rather over the top...

If we are still talking within the limits of the OP religious issue, then yes, I agree...
Other than that...

#14 bart

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Posted 14 February 2010 - 05:13 PM

To any BalletTalkers who happened to have been there:

When Balanchine staged the Adagio Lamentoso from Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6-Pathetique in 1981 did the audience clap at the end? With references to religion and the ending where the boy blows out the candle which some have intrepreted as a reference to Balancine's own mortality I've often wondered at the audiences response and this thread has reminded me of it. Thanks!

I just noticed that no one addressed perky's question back in 2006. My memory is incomplete, but I certainly don't remember that there WASN'T applause. In fact, I'm sure there was, but it was probably retrained (no cheering, for example). There may also have been a slight delay between the end of the piece and the beginning of the applause, something I've sometimes noticed with concert performances of especially iconic sacred music.

The procession and other liturgical aspects of Adagio Lamentoso were highly theatrical. It never occurred to me that anyone intended this to be an "act of worship" in kfw's sense. Instead, the piece came across as a highly personal representation of or comment on an act of worship . The emotional impact was not unlike the singing of the "Salve Regina" at the end end of Dialogues of the Carmelites. This is different, in intent and effect, from sacred dance in certain Eastern or Native-American traditions.

I suspect that each individual in the cast and in the audience provided his or her own "religious significance" to Balanchine's piece, as they did to MacMillan's. Dignified applause seems to be the best way we can all share what must be a very individual experience.

#15 SandyMcKean

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Posted 15 February 2010 - 10:15 AM

One complaint: the audience must be asked, before curtain-rise, not to applaud during a work of religious significance.

If I am to take this complain seriously, does this mean then that I ought not to clap during a performance of The Rite of Spring?


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