Tis the season to be heckling - The London Philharmonic Orchestra have been subjected to two incidents of heckling this November. The London Philharmonic haven't had a great start to the season after the arrival of the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra at this years BBC Proms sparked controversy resulting in the LPO sacking four of its players as well as an amass of bad press coverage. The season started quietly and, in honesty, I turned up to the Festival Hall on opening night seeking a protest for amusement though nothing was to be seen or heard - business continued as usual.
Any protests to occur were to be on the grounds of artistic differences. On the 15th November Maestro Osmo Vänskä conducted the LPO when the spectacularly virtuosic Janice Jansen performed Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto followed by Bruckner's Symphony Number Four. Off duty, I was sat in one of the Hall's boxes and from there, during the Scherzo of Brucker's Fourth Symphony, I saw a man start talking to himself while putting his coat on, he proceeded to stand up and talk to the Hall barking various phrases at us: "It's boring", "He's dragging it", "C'mon man listen, it's too slow" - He didn't dawdle as he exited but he did so loudly. The culprit then wrote into the Daily Mail of classical music: Norman Lebrecht's Blog .
The heckler, now named, suggests that "It is about time Royal Festival Hall, Barbican Hall and Royal Albert Hall Proms audiences became far more critical and shout out like I did otherwise we will continue to have 'dumbed-down' tenth-rate performances". Before now I have never experienced heckling in the concert hall and I don't like it. Through new mediums of social media I can read, and often post, angry criticisms online to many people in seconds, I supposed you could always just quietly exit the concert hall or wait until the applause like our second heckler, who was polite enough to wait until the end of the piece. The second but insignificant incident occurred only a few nights ago when above the applause of 'Towards Osiris' by Matthias Pintscher a man shouted "Rubbish" from the back of hall.
It seems as though London has fairly civilised audiences in comparison to the experiences of conductor David Parry who recollects his own heckling debacle: "I remember conducting performances of Don Giovanni in Calixto Bieito's production at Hannover, where the audience often made so much noise that I had to shout "Ruhe" (Quiet) at them to be able to continue, often several times in a performance. There was a man with a football-whistle at the first night, who blew it intermittently. That was real audience participation: I loved it, both the production and the reaction. Further to this when a man behind me shouted, "Was ist dass für Schweinerei" at the beginning of the Act 2 finale (when admittedly Garry Magee was simulating urinating behind the sofa). I carried on conducting but turned round and said: "Ich bitte Ruhe: wir arbeiten hier unten." (Please be quiet: we're working down here.) His face was a picture!"
Perhaps we are overreacting though don't fear it seems the London Philharmonic and Southbank Centre staff will prevent all attempts of future heckling: Speaking of the second instance of heckling critic Hilary Finch in the Times reported "A man with a walkie-talkie and two big bouncers were immediately summoned to the offender's seat. Now quite why this audience member's response should be considered more disruptive than the braying bravos that frequently deafen the end of an only mediocre performance is beyond understanding."
We will all be text messaging through the next concerts, right?
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