First a ringphone, now a crying baby

First a ringphone, now a crying baby


norman lebrecht

January 25, 2012

Conductors know what to do when a phone goes off in their concert. It’s called the Alan Gilbert gambit.

In Dayton, Ohio, they are used to ringing phones. But when a baby started cying in the flute solo of Debussy’s L’Apres-midi d’un faun, conductor Neal Gittelman had  enough.

Read on here.


  • I don’t mind parents with babies in concerts at all, but I agree that the only place for them is next to the aisle and close to an exit – just in case. Kids should listen just as long as they are able to stay focused to the music. I think the ushers can be of help and arrange “suitable” seats for those appearing to the concert with their children.

    I would like to see a post about the problems associated with hearing aids. It is many times the older patrons who don’t realize that their hearing aid is feeding back and ruining the concert to everyone else. In Finland we have induction loops in some halls to help people with hearing aids get the music wirelessly into their hearing aid, but apparently it’s not widespread in the US.

  • Rosana Martins says:

    People should realize that concert halls are most inappropriate to very small children, let alone babies and the administrations of the halls should forbid their entrance. Parents ought to foresee these possibilities and take the necessary measures to keep their babies at home.

  • Doug says:

    This is why most theatres have a policy “no children under the age of five.”

    That’s a no-brainer, as they say.

    • Rosana Martins says:

      Unfortunately, the theatres in Brazil allow babies and small children. Many concerts are disturbed by the crying of babies!

  • Brian says:

    I am a conductor, although not nearly as renowned as Mssrs. Gilbert and Gittelman. I have had to suffer through cell phones, coughs at just the wrong moment, hearing aids, and yes–even babies (once it was my own–she was promptly removed). I challenge our eminent conductors to try some other venues such as county fairgrounds and the all-time favorite: the high school gymnasium. How many musicians, growing up, have had to suffer the fate of audiences who still that they’re still at a tractor pull or a basketball game? Many people just don’t shut up. This is a statement on how many in our audiences never learned concert etiquette. As evidenced in America’s heartland, it’s only going to get worse.

  • Janey says:

    I’m sympathetic to wanting to see a concert, but why, oh why, bring a baby? And why not leave immediately when there’s the first sight of problems?

    Excellent point by Brian above about other venues and an overall lack of etiquette. I’m convinced that many people act as if they’re at home watching a concert on tv or at a pop concert.

    Ironically, if classical music is successful at bringing in new audiences, this issue will get worse before it gets better.

  • Barry says:

    Several years ago, when the ROH was closed, I was amazed to see two young children at the RAH performance of Gotterdammerung.They looked about ten years old and seemed enthralled.

    Not exactly babies, and probably not typical, but interesting nonetheless.

  • Ziggy says:

    The last decade has been noticeable for ‘at home’ audience behaviour in the Gallery from day visitors during the Proms. It’s now common for them to keep their smartphones on, talk, read newspapers, and eat. Objections to such behaviour are seen as slightly odd. However, most people who attend with small children are very aware of audience etiquette – though we sought help from a Redcoat when a beachball was once produced for child diversion. Attempts to point out this was not acceptable were met with hostility from the parents. Fortunately, they left at the interval.

  • Stefan says:

    Ziggy – haven’t we come full circle, in a way? The kind of behaviour you describe (talking, eating, reading newspapers, etc.) – was it not once common in opera houses and concert halls, in centuries past?