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Class up the concert. Learn the ins and outs of a day at the symphony!

One of my favorite places to go and experience true, unfiltered beauty is a concert hall– to take in a symphony, to simultaneously admire and envy a soloist, or both. Back in those Pride and Prejudice times, classical music was it. Concertos and overtures were acclaimed by all, and attendance was a big to-do. Nowadays, the stereotype that the symphony is only popular with a more elderly crowd is perpetuated by the fact that not many young people attend, and they’re missing out. It’s a chance to escape, to get dolled up in your fanciest attire, and to experience the pure beauty of live classical music. The experience can only be made better with a friend in tow.

Here are some things to know when attending your first orchestra concert! Believe me, I have attended many. I’ll use my qualifications to get all you music-lovers in tip-top shape for your first vina date at the symphony.


Smetana Hall in Prague, Czech Republic via PragueStay

If you’re a student, chances are there may be a discount for you on the symphony’s website. You’ll be able to clearly hear the beautiful music no matter where you sit; however, the best seats in the house are in the middle of the hall in the premier orchestra section (apart, of course, from the up-close-and-personal side boxes). These seats are more expensive, so if you cannot spare the extra cash, steal a seat. Not really, but check the orchestra section during the first half of the program; there may be some empty seats. Those probably belong to season ticket holders who didn’t come to that concert. You can try to slip in at intermission!


First things first: it’s very helpful to know the basic orchestral sections you’re listening to. There are the strings (my favorite section, as I am a violinist) which include violins, violas, celli, and string basses. Behind them are the woodwinds (flutes, clarinets, oboes, etc), and behind them is the brass (trumpet, trombone, French horn, tuba, etc). In the very back are some of the most fun to watch instruments: the percussion. You can see every kind of drum under the sun, from the xylophone, to the triangle, to the cymbals, and more. Sometimes, there’s a piano chilling out in the back, too (just kidding; pianists take their job very seriously).


One time, I went to the symphony with my mom, and I vividly remember her sitting on her hands in an effort to keep from clapping at inappropriate times. You see, often at an orchestra concert, you will hear a symphony, which is a long piece of music divided into smaller pieces called movements. For example, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony (which we all know and love) has four movements. Try with all your might to not clap in between those movements. There will likely be long, shuffling pauses during which the musicians will turn their music and the maestro will put his arms and baton down– you will feel compelled to clap. Resist that temptation! The piece will be overall more seamless and magical if you let the silence be as the musicians prepare to perform their next movement.

You may also hear an overture, which is often about ten minutes long and the opening to an opera. You might hear a concerto, which features one soloist of any instrument in a particularly dazzling outfit, accompanied by the orchestra behind them. A concerto also has movements and clapping etiquette is requested.


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via @pauline_mercer

Equally as important is knowing the composer you’re about to hear. When we hear a pop song on the radio, we are usually unaware of who actually wrote it. To us, that matters less than who is singing it (which we typically recognize, immediately). This does not apply to classical music. In classical music, the composer is the god. If you’re going to hear the classics (like Bach), research a few pointers on Baroque music. Hey, if it ain’t Baroque, don’t fix it. (It is my duty as a classical musician to make a few bad classical music puns). If you’re signing up for an overture from a Handel opera, get ready for the drama. If you’re going to see the Mendelssohn violin concerto, prepare to be swept off your feet by the sheer brilliance of it all.

You can’t go wrong. Each symphony concert is special in its own, whimsical way. There is nothing else like music in the world. So take your vina to the symphony, and cherish it! I guarantee you’ll be Bach soon (last one, promise).

Let us know how your trip to the symphony went! If you’re looking for another music aficionado, don’t forget to download Hey! VINA

(Featured image via Pinterest)


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