Do you tweet in concerts?

Do you tweet in concerts?


norman lebrecht

April 12, 2011

At the Royal Festival Hall on Sunday, the tenor James Gilchrist suffered an alarming loss of sight in one eye during Bach’s St Matthew Passion and was rushed off to hospital.

St Matthew Passion

The performance continued, with much of the second half cut as no substitute tenor had been rehearsed. It was a messy option but the best in the circumstances and the audience seemed to respond sympathetically.
What astonished the  performers when they emerged into fresh air was that all their friends, lovers, neighbours and tradesmen knew about Gilchrist’s mishap as members of the audience had tweeted about it enthusiastically during the actual concert. 
One singer who contacted me seemed a little discomposed by the notion that what he was doing in the privacy of a concert hall was instant public knowledge.
This set me wondering about the etiquette – not to say netiquette – of tweeting during a
concert. My view is that so long as the clicks can’t be heard and the motions are discfeet there is no reason why a ticket holder should not share the experience with others.
But what’s your opinion? To tweet, or not to tweet? I’m at Maazel’s Mahler 1 tonight. Should I?
LATE ADD: James Gilchrist is fine. Here’s what he posted on his website:
I had a bit of a problem during this concert. Unfortunately, I became ill during the performance and had to leave the stage. I am glad to say that about half an hour or so later things were back to normal but it was, as you can imagine, not a pleasant experience. I would like to apologise enormously to all my colleagues on stage – the Bach Choir, Florilegium, the other soloists and David Hill – and also to the audience whose St Matthew became shortened because of my absence. And I would also like to thank people for their hugely kind messages of support.


  • Mark Pullinger says:

    Use your mobile phone during a concert while sitting next to me and you’ll know about it, Norman!
    NL: Good reason not to sit next to you.

  • Marcus Davison says:

    My initial reaction to this blog was one of disappointment. I had assumed from your own tweet that you were addressing your question primarily to performers. I was looking forward to the obvious reply from one of the pianistic twitterati (eg Hough): ‘Yes, but only when playing Ravel’s concerto for the left hand, as tweeting with both hands during an orchestral tutti would be disrespectful to the other players’.

  • Lee McLernon says:

    Tweeting in an interval is OK but during the performance itself (including during a break between pieces – or movements!) is unforgivable.

  • susannah wight says:

    Being behind, next to or near anyone tweeting during a concert (or break between pieces as Lee says) is as distracting as having a mobile phone go off.

  • Jo Forrest says:

    Well said Mark! Same goes for sweet paper rustling, and inane chatter to your neighbour. I can do a very mean Paddington Bear HARD STARE!!

  • Jade Tinkler says:

    It’s never occurred to me since I always turn my phone off but I was half wondering if you were referring to performers too. It seems to be becoming quite common for the orchestral musicians on my FB list to be facebooking during concerts including posting pictures.
    NL: Just watch the percussion during those 85-bar breaks.

  • Ah,
    I was at this concert, and I did indeed tweet about it, once I was at the other end of my tube journey home, but only when asked for details by a friend.
    I was sat near the front (a very lucky accident) and could see what was happening, well enough that I thought/hoped it was a migraine (as opposed to anything worse). It’s an odd situation, because the classical world is so small. I’ve previously met/worked with James, and so was more worried than I would be if it was say the lead singer of a band at a gig. Equally, people reading my tweets are more likely to be personally connected.
    So basically, I don’t know the right answer.

  • Andrew says:

    I guess in a situation like this, it’s not the concert that is being tweeted so much as a news story arising in the context of a concert..

  • Peter Puskas says:

    People should be forced to leave their mobile phones outside concert halls.
    All this reminds me of posters in Viennese coffee houses from the days when mobiles where still a novelty:

  • Yvonne says:

    Presumably there was a pause when Mr Gilchrist left the stage, and some kind of announcement about the truncation of the performance. These are already disruptions. If someone tweets about the news at that time, this is hardly surprising. The scenario given seems far too specific to be the stimulus for a general question such as “do you tweet in concerts?”. The real question here is “do you tweet when something unusual or dramatic disrupts a concert you’re attending?”. Different story. Some who say no to the first question, might well admit to the second.
    As for the singer who “seemed a little discomposed by the notion that what he was doing in the privacy of a concert hall was instant public knowledge” – why would he consider a public performance in a public concert hall something private? It was going to be reviewed, presumably. So where’s the difference in audiences posting their own comments about what had happened? What if a concert is broadcast? Concert halls aren’t private places, even if what goes on in them often seems very intimate.

  • Huw Belling says:

    A concert makes a lovely soundtrack to one’s seamless mobile-phone-experience.

  • Graham says:

    They should install technology in concert halls that blocks reception and causes “shredded tweet”

  • Michael P. Scott says:

    Norman, Norman, Norman: I agree with Graham and Mark in particular. It’s the light that emits from the phones that disturb me in darkened spaces such as a concert hall and a movie theatre.
    People who pull out their phones have the manners of a medieval swineherd.
    We managed to make it through the past couple of centuries without them bothering others who are concentrating on the performers.
    A HEX and POX on anyone — ANYone — who pulls out a phone in a concert hall (or cinema)!!!

  • Petros Linardos says:

    1) Whoever attends a concert for the music, will probably (hopefully) devote their full attention to the music.
    2) Having gadgets turned on during a concert will increase the chances of accidentally making noise.

  • John P says:

    If the performance is temporarily halted I see no reason why people shouldn’t feel free to tweet. It would be quite something else to tweet while the performance is taking place.

  • What’s the point of tweeting during a concert as opposed to afterward?
    If one were at an especially fun all-night dance party, you could tweet or text your friends to maybe get them to show up later. But if you tweet during a classical concert to perhaps say that a particular aria, movement, cadenza, etc., is great, so what? No one can rush down to the venue to see it.
    Go ahead and broadcast your thoughts afterward and then folks can discuss and attend repeat performances and upcoming events.

  • To attend a concert is to dedicate yourself to what will be presented. Those who tweets during the performance show how little regard they have for what is presented and for those who are at the stage and the pit.