Getting back into concert going

Getting back into concert going


norman lebrecht

November 08, 2021

Last night’s Philharmonia concert at the Royal Festival Hall was my first for 20 months. I was masked throughout, as were most of the audience.

The hall was sold out, thanks largely to the pulling power of soloist Hilary Hahn – see Alastair Macaulay’s review here.

The audience was predominantly under 40, ethnically diverse and intent on enjoyment. Apart from a minor disturbance in The Lark Ascending, the concentration in the hall was exemplary. The absorption of a new piece by Gabriella Smith was no different from the reception of more familiar items.  Perhaps because it was a Sunday night, the financial sector was absent from the central seats and the atmosphere was appreciably lighter.

What caught my eye was how much the Philharmonia players were enjoying being back, sharing little nods and smiles and giving much of their art and themselves. Nobody expected the hall to sell out – it rarely does these days – and the sight of people hanging over balcony rails to hear and see more was universally uplifting.

This was concertgoing as it used to be, not just before Covid but before the onset of overplanning – when each concert was an event and it felt like a privilege to hear Brahms.



  • PS says:

    I expect new restrictions soon… before Christmas… as cases ramp up from the new variant. Whether they will be followed or ignored is another matter.

  • Peter San Diego says:

    NL, your third paragraph gives much encouragement. The trick is to reproduce that phenomenon more consistently (with or without the presence of the financial sector).

  • William Evans says:

    Truly uplifting news, especially to read of the sheer enjoyment of concertgoers and performers alike. ‘Great, too, to hear of a sell-out event at the RFH.