Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Audience Etiquette

There have been things said on both the MMN (My Manilow Network) and the alt.fan message board on Google concerning performances on the piano and audience etiquette. Fans complaining about having to watch Barry from behind when he’s playing the piano as they were sitting to the left of the stage. Fans bragging online about cussing out “civilians” (non-fans) because the civilians asked the front row seated fans to sit down during the songs as they couldn’t see Barry perform.

Let me start off by disclosing that I was 7 years old when I began learning to play the piano. I’ve learned a lot of things along the way, and was exposed to classical piano performances, with the etiquette training included.

When you go to a concert and the artist is a pianist, this is the instrument they want to highlight. The piano is positioned on the stage in such a way as to allow as many of the audience members to see the pianist's fingers move on the keyboard. On some performances, I have seen a large mirror hung diagonally over the pianist, allowing more of the audience to also be able to see the performance. Part of viewing the performance of a pianist is viewing the movement of their hands on the keyboard.

The other part of the performance is listening to the pianist, and the lid of the piano is lifted to provide greater volume and a more rich tone to the sound as the piano is played. The lid is the top part of the piano case, covering and protecting the strings. It only lifts from the side, which is another reason why pianos are traditionally performed on with the side of the piano facing the audience.

Another reason why the piano side faces the audience is the point of view for the audience members, particularly the folks sitting in the front 6 – 10 rows in the audience. If the piano were positioned on the stage in a way for the pianist to face the audience, the large body of the piano would make it so the front part of the audience wouldn’t see the pianist at all, they would be hidden behind the piano.

Some may say Barry Manilow’s primary instrument in concert is his voice, Barry might actually tell you it’s the piano he’s playing. I’ve had the ability to sit in the audience in a spot that allowed me to view him playing the piano and he is, in my opinion, very gifted.

That said, there are some rules of etiquette that people are not remembering when they go to Barry’s concerts, particularly in the smaller venues.

1. Arrive promptly. It is rude to the performer for people to walk into the audience once the show has started. It is also inconsiderate of others who have to move to allow the late people to get to their seats. In some theaters, late audience members are not allowed into the auditorium or theater until the first set of music has finished and there is a bridge between songs before people are allowed in, if at all.

2. Turn off the media. You are not there to text or take phone calls. Turn off your devices or leave them at home. It’s distracting and rude to others (and the performer) when the performance gets interrupted by phone calls or people texting.

3. Once you are in your seat, stay in your seat. It is considered rude to others when people stand while someone is performing, and it is also considered rude to the performer if you get up and leave during a performance. Basically it is a slap in the face to the performer in the music world.

4. Some performances allow applause and/or standing ovations in between songs, some performances ask that you withhold your applause and ovations until after the full performance is completed. If the latter is the case, it will be on the program, ticket stub or will be mentioned at the beginning of the program.

These are some of the basic rules, but more can be found here:


It seems like Barry is trying to give a really classy performance in a really classy show. I’m sure Barry would appreciate it (and the civilians would as well) if his fans could also conduct themselves appropriately to the theme of the show. Barry works so hard to give all of his audience members a show to remember, it defeats his purpose if fans are being rude by standing during the songs and swearing at people in a loud voice to anyone who objects. Not only can the target of those comments hear this, but so can everyone else, including Barry.

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