US orchestra hunts child who disrupted its concert

At the end of Sunday’s Handel and Haydn Society performance of Mozart’s Masonic Funeral at Symphony Hall in Boston, a child let out a cry of WOW! and was heard all over the radio broadcast. (Listen to it here).

The HHS is the oldest music organisation in America. It does not tolerate indignities.

An investigation has been set in motion to track down the child, who is believed to be around six years old.

The HHS president and CEO David Snead has written a do-you-know-this-kid letter to all supporters, calling the exclamation ‘one of the most wonderful moments I have experienced in a concert hall’. The conductor Harry Christophers wants to meet him.

We’re not surprised the kid is lying low.

photo: Sam Brewer

UPDATE: They found him in the end.

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  • There’s nothing “disruptive” about this (very gentle) “wow”. Nor the HHS, nor Harry Christophers are “hunting down” the child.
    Silly title !

  • “We would like … to invite them to meet Harry Christophers”

    How very typical of a CEO to think that the child was impressed by the conductor and not, oh, I don’t know … Mozart, or the low brass and bass sections, or the acoustics of Symphony Hall…

    • Well, I’m sure they’d invite the kid to meet Mozart, but I hear Wolfgang does not grant many audiences these days.

      As for a meeting with the acoustics of the Hall, well, sure, I think that’s called a concert.

      • “Wolfgang does not grant many audiences these days” – With all due respect, I beg to differ. I find myself walking through Boston, and, suddenly, without warning, Mozart’s music pops up in my head, radiates right into my heart and through my entire body, and turning the day into a radiant one, irrespective of weather. Mozart Visitation, I call such moments. Or, Audience – a mutual one.:-)

    • I very much doubt that is the reason. I would imagine Harry Christophers – as would we all – would like to ask that young person what he/she thought at that very moment. That would be something to know .

    • Yes indeed. For the music business people (Managers, producers etc), it is all about the musicians, and very little about the music.

    • Well maybe he was impressed with the whole experience. I have often heard H&H in Boston and once years ago at Tanglewood. It is a rather impressive and extremely musical group of musicians. And Mr Christophers is first-rate.

  • This is a charming, heart-warming story.
    Thanks for posting but WHY does it need to have such an inaccurate title. I know SD relies on clicks. Fair enough, but in this case there didn’t even need to be a doom-n-gloom tone.

  • Totally misleading title here (was it supposed to be a joke?)
    But it’s a lovely story and brightened my day beyond words 😉

    • Spot-on, Rodney. In a reply to you attached to someone else’s comment, NL says “…we are here to make you smile”. Why the blazes anyone would smile because he utterly misrepresented the Society’s reaction to the ‘wow’ is impossible to fathom. But, credit where it’s due, although seemingly humourless, NL is very good at devising posts that make a lot of people angry — much better clickbait.

    • Are you THE Rodney Friend, leader of the LPO in the Sixties? If so, may I say I inwardly cried ‘Wow!’ at the end of many of your concerts back then!…

  • That’s lovely! And yes, “disrupted” is a little OTT, but we know how SD works by now, surely. I was confident I’d find a feel-good story behind the misleading headline.

  • Perhaps the parent, who didn’t want to pay for a baby sitter, said to the child, now that you’ve endured the concert, and behaved properly, I’m going to take you for ice cream, or buy you a new video game!

    • I often wonder why people downvote some comments. So I will explain my downvote of your comment by offering a more likely version.

      Perhaps the parent, who was glad to pay as much for a concert ticket as for a sitter, especially for a child who responds to music, said to the child, “I loved it, too! Let’s go for an ice cream and you can tell me what you liked about this music.”

  • The most fabulous compliment for my ensemble and I came at the close of a concert for school children. Before the applause started, one child (probably ten yo) said in a loud voice, “Cool!”

  • I can’t understand the tendency in this group of commentators to be so quick to complain about the presence of children in the concert hall and opera theatre. Isn’t this what we want more of? Shouldn’t we encourage more of this?

    If it were an adult who called out at that particular moment “Bravo!” we’d be understandable miffed that an adult couldn’t have recognized the value of those few minutes of stopped time. But for a child to spontaneously voice the “Wow!” that the entire audience was likely feeling is wonderful! And a responsible parent will seize that moment to explain how to watch the conductor during those quiet endings, who will make some gesture (such as lowering the arms to the sides) to let us know when the orchestra is really done, and it’s OK to applaud, say “Wow!” and turn to the person next to you to share the moment.

    I managed front of house for a choral concert over the weekend. After the concert, I spied a boy I’d seen at an earlier concert of this ensemble; I’d remembered him because he was the kind of kid who has a hard time sitting still, and on that earlier occasion, his parent had brought him to the lobby to work off his fidgets. But even there, he was swaying and listening intently — because he just could not resist the music. So the other day, I went to talk to him not about his behavior, but to ask him what he thought about the MUSIC. He talked for five minutes solid – he was filled with joy over the music he had just heard. Maybe, just maybe, this sort of experience will encourage him to be a musician, and maybe, just maybe, he’ll be the sort of parent who brings his kid to the concert hall and risks that awe-struck “Wow!” that seems to irk short-sighted people. And maybe my talking with him will encourage has parent to bring him back again, knowing that he is welcomed.

    For all the hand-wringing here and elsewhere about the decline of classical music, a lot of you folks sure are blind to what’s sitting right in front of you.

    • The problem your comment gives rise to is that those who have thus far commented show no animus at the idea of children at concerts. Did you read the comments before you commented on them?

  • Addendum to my earlier comment since I ran out of space!

    Come to think of it, for the next concert of this ensemble whose front of house (and marketing) I manage, I think I’m going to offer a special session just for young people and their care-givers, say, 15 minutes before the next concert, to let them know what happens at a concert. Things like- how all those musicians get on and off stage and how the audience can welcome them and get ready to listen; what happens when there’s a solo, and how we can respond; loud moments and quiet moments; awareness of the people around you and their enjoyment; a few words on when the musicians like to hear applause (e.g., after an entire work) — you see, framing all this as interactions with the musicians and others in the audience, rather than a list of prescriptive dos and don’ts. Perhaps a quick look at the program book to show how it can be your guide to what’s happening on stage (see where it says “hold applause”? here’s why). Pictures of the performers. A list of all the instruments. The words for the songs. Who ever takes time to explain this? And Q&A from the kids,


    This is a welcoming attitude, AND helps teach the sorts of behaviours that make for an enjoyable experience for everyone.

    And I daresay that there are some younger parents out there who might also find this helpful. I can imagine some parents who have no musical experience, or no concert-going experience, who nonetheless are trying to respond to musical interest in a child, and aren’t quite sure how to approach our sometimes-forbidding concert hall experience.

    I should add that after another recent concert by this ensemble that included a small (4) ensemble of early instruments, the entire audience was invited onstage at the end to see the instruments, talk with the players and get a little demo. Among the 100 or so people who did this were many children. The photos from that session were pure gold — and, I will add, were VERY valuable in our next round of grant applications.

    • Yes. They call those ‘instrument petting zoos,’ and children love them .It encourages children to learn instruments or to sing.

  • I don’t play solo recitals at Symphony Hall so it didn’t make the news, but I was giving a solo piano recital of French music on a library series and when I played the end of Debussy’s Éstampes I heard a half-whispered “cool!” from a boy about ten years old.

    I still take it as one of the most whole-hearted compliments that I’ve ever received.

  • Please note: ‘at the end’ not during, it is this fact which makes the moment charming.

  • The orchestra is known familiarly as H&H, not HHS. Get it straight. And they are not ‘hunting ‘ down the child. They would like to know who he is as they found the incident charming and spontaneous. The WOW was very 18th Century. Audiences often expressed pleasure or anger at what was presented – they did not always reserve applause or dismay until the concert’s conclusion. I hope this child grows up to be a player or conductor of a period orchestra.

    • Why can’t you just let the child grow up to enjoy listening to music rather than thinking he has to become a performer.

  • What an unfortunate “spin” Mr Lebrecht has put on this story! In reality, there was noting but delight expressed by the H&H leadership – and its audience! Did Me Lebrecht actually read the Society’s PSA (which he published in his article)?

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