Some strange people go to classical concerts

Some strange people go to classical concerts


norman lebrecht

December 15, 2015

From a reader’s comment to a Washington Post review of a horn trio recital at the Library of Congress:

… in the first movement of the Brahms, I thought I heard a woman a few rows in front of me in the first row make some noise, and then I realized she was either laughing or making a crying noise. Soon after that, she spit on the floor, and also tore at a page in the program; this was alarming.

Pretty soon after that, the woman approached the edge of the stage and placed a shoe there, and after returning to her seat, possibly went back up to it to more carefully position it. Then once the 1st movement ended, she quietly said something like “that’s to catch all the [3 or 4 letter word for semen]”. I was stunned and frozen for the next 20+ minutes; she went back to the stage a few more times to place and reposition a jacket or something by the shoe. The trio did a great job ignoring whatever they saw or heard. Hopefully she was photographed and banned after the end. Did anyone else see or hear something I didn’t describe…?

The performers were Eric Ruske, Gloria Chien and Jennifer Frautschi.

audience applause

UPDATE: Jennifer Frautschi adds:

This woman was conducting her shenanigans on the edge of the stage behind me, and since Gloria and I both had our backs to her we had no idea any of this was going on during the concert. Eric could see her walking back and forth, as he was facing her, but he ignored her completely. We did all heard her very audible comment between movements. Apparently her movements to and from the stage were evident to everyone in the auditorium. Although it was bizarre, all of us are accustomed to all sorts of funny and strange things happening during concerts. Never a dull moment in a live performance!


  • Brian says:

    Interesting that the critic chose not to even mention it…

    • Olassus says:

      Maybe he thought it was too sad to mention.

      • Brian says:

        Could be. Or it wasn’t in his line of sight?

      • Stephen Brookes says:

        Thank you, Olassus. Of course it was. There’s no need to publicly shame people who are clearly having a difficult time. Let’s hope the young woman is feeling better, and getting whatever help she needs.

    • Stephen Brookes says:

      An apparently disturbed woman created a brief, minor distraction at a concert. It was sad, more than anything else. The performers easily took it in stride, as did most of the audience — with, clearly, one notable and appalling exception, who couldn’t resist humiliating a mentally troubled individual in the Post comment section.

      And you wonder why I didn’t mention the incident in my review?

  • Anne Midgette says:

    From the critic, Stephen Brookes: “From where we were sitting, it seemed like nothing — all I noticed was some murmuring and then a woman got up and changed her seat. Over in a moment, and I didn’t think anything of it. When I saw the comment about it on my review I asked my wife if she had noticed anything, and her response was the same as mine. Maybe for the people near her it was a problem, but it didn’t disrupt the concert in any meaningful way.”

  • Mather Pfeiffenberger says:

    I was there with a group of friends and sitting in the middle part of the auditorium. The woman’s actions didn’t become bothersome until she got up from her seat to position her shoe and jacket on stage, as mentioned by the commenter. I would guess that this was at least somewhat distracting to most of the audience. And unfortunate though it is to say so, with the news we are reading these days, I had to wonder if the woman’s actions were going to be followed by something more dangerous. I am told that the Library staff zoomed down to meet the woman at the conclusion of the Brahms.

    After the concert, one of my friends approached the young woman in the hallway and tried to draw her out more. She asked her first if she had enjoyed the music, to which she nodded quietly. She then said to her that some of us were wondering why she had placed the objects on the stage, to which she looked down at the floor and would say nothing. Clearly she was suffering from some sort of problem.

    • V.Lind says:

      Does sound as if it were someone with what I believe these days is called mental challenges. It seems the audience did not exacerbate the situation by taking her on and it seems to have been handled discreetly by the staff. I think it seems all behaved extremely well.

      • Stephen Brookes says:

        You are right. This young woman was clearly ill, and deserved to be treated with kindness and sympathy, as she apparently was by Library staff. Why someone felt the need to humiliate her in a public forum is beyond me.

    • Stephen Brookes says:

      Mather, I admire the kindness of your friend.

  • B Bailey says:

    That’s nothing. In 1945 Toscanini gave a pension fund concert with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and a young woman by the name of Helen Favill, wearing black silk slacks, clambered on to the stage and danced while the orchestra was playing the Weber-Berlioz Invitation to the Dance. This being LA, people thought it was part of the show and elicited applause before she was finally led off by Wilfrid Davis, the orchestra manager.

  • Roy Lisker says:

    The mentally ill do deserve a bit of slack once in awhile. Even at a concert.

  • MacroV says:

    Why are you even posting this? It’s not news. As some readers have thoughtfully pointed out, this was an obviously disturbed woman, who doesn’t need to be exposed this way. Good for the critic who didn’t mention it in his review.

    There are enough oddball characters or just pretentious twits – supposedly with their wits fully about them – who attend concerts and are fair game. No need to subject people with mental health challenges to this kind of exposure.

  • Robert says:

    I would find that obviously confused and out-of-place behavior very alarming. It sounds like a psychotic episode. Not something you want to have happening in a closed room with.

    As far as it being inappropriate to mention it here… Anyone who saw her is already aware of her and anyone who wasn’t there isn’t going to recognize her from the extremely limited description given of her.

  • John Borstlap says:

    Mentally-challenged people are not exclusively found in the audience:

  • Sara M. says:

    Not surprising; most americans were mentally ill.