What-I-Wonder-Wednesday … This week, silence at a concert

Concerto Barocco Di Roma
Recently, I was in Rome at the end of an amazing cruise (It was one of those once-in-a-lifetime things: me and five middle-aged women, going around the world by plane and ship – I’ll tell you about it some other time).

Anyway, as we checked into our hotel, one of our party spotted a flyer for a ‘Concerto Barocco di Roma’ Vivaldi concert that very night, and just a short(ish) walk from our hotel.

A live chamber orchestra concerto in Rome, the eternal city? How could we NOT go?

Faced with a choice between cheaper seats and slightly more expensive ones, we decided to ‘splash out’ the extra €5 for the better seats. Which ended up being just one row further forward, and with no other advantage. But hey, we were on holidays, so who cares?

The venue was All Saints Anglican Church in Rome, an Italian Gothic church with vaulted ceilings and stunning acoustics .. in fact, the apse behind the performers acted like a giant speaker-box, and the sound was amazing.

But what was even more amazing was the reaction of the audience.

From the moment the lead violin walked in until the last note of the final movement, there was hardly a sound.

There was no introduction, no applause between movements, nothing. It wasn’t that the audience was unappreciative – it was as if the hundred or so people in the church were holding their collective breath.

Now, I’m used to Australian audiences, who would have clapped politely as the performers made their way to their stations, and at ‘appropriate’ points in the performance … but for this concert, ‘appropriate’ seemed to be at the end – and ONLY at the end.

Those in our party wanted to clap – but it was quite literally, a ‘when in Rome’ moment.

So here’s what I wonder this week: when have YOU been surprised by different cultural ‘norms’? When and where have you found that what you think is normal, isn’t?

I’ve heard that Turks applaud when a plane lands; that gestures we make to signify consent or approval can be deadly insults in some parts of the Middle East .. so how about you?

Send me a comment (use the ‘comment’ link at the top of this story) about your “Well that wasn’t what I was expecting” moment.

‘Cause that’s what I wonder this week.



3 thoughts on “What-I-Wonder-Wednesday … This week, silence at a concert

  1. Oh yes indeed … I’m one of the companions graham mentioned in this post. But here’s the thing, just reading Graham’s post about that amazing music in that amazing place made me hold my breath again! The whole world stopped for those 45 minutes. I am so grateful for the cultural difference that caused me to appreciate beauty in a whole new way. The silence was indeed golden. Cheers! Lorraine


  2. Applause is strange here in the US. There is considerably more yelling and whooping for big moments in the main show but during the support acts, there is a lot more ambient and other noise. Partly I think it’s because the tickets are significantly cheaper so folks aren’t trying to get their absolute last cent’s worth but also, it’s as though Americans are less interested in the experience of a concert overall, more just in it for what they came for. And forget about silence at a sports game.

    In Ireland, there are big gaps of silence. And then wooing that sounds like booing to many artists. I’ve heard more than one American artist complain of rude Irish audiences. Hilarious.


    • That’s interesting, @joeandlyndal .. the ‘wooing’ that you refer to must be a bit disconcerting (to make a very bad pun!)

      It’s a bit like the slow handclap which in Europe and Russia is a sign of approval – but in Australia and the US is an indication of displeasure…


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