• Konrad Fernandez

Zubin Mehta Concert at Chennai - some pointers for organizers and audiences

On Oct 28th Zubin Mehta conducted the Australian World Orchestra at Music Academy, Chennai. I was fortunate to get a pass because of my wife’s persistence in trying so many options to get one.

I have always been a regular classical concert goer and have a deep love for western classical music. Over the years I have observed some patterns which I believe concert goers and event organizers can work on to make things better. Yesterday again, unfortunately, most of these patterns were repeated. I want to make a few suggestions accordingly.

For Event Organizers:

Control of passes:

The entire event was sponsor driven, and therefore only those connected with the sponsoring companies got passes. This, I think, denies people the right to buy a ticket and enjoy music of their choice. The passes were so tightly controlled that it was frustrating. People must be allowed to buy tickets and that enables a fair process for music lovers. Looking at many people in the concert yesterday, I got the impression many of them didn’t even appreciate such music, but merely turned up because they were given a pass. In the process, many people who genuinely love this kind of music were literally barred out.

Parking and logistics:

At the back of the pass it said that valet parking was available. When most people arrived, they were sent away to park on their own at a school campus nearby (and walk back in the rain!). Only some VIPs were given valet parking. This seems unacceptable to me. It is subservient, and discriminatory. If a facility is being offered to everyone and is committed to a pass holder, there must be no discrimination.

Audience education:

Since audiences in many parts of India are still unfamiliar with the music and the concert norms, a lot more effort must be taken to educate the audience on norms…like when to applaud, and when not to!


Stating many rules and norms, but allowing people to flout them sets a bad example. Late-comers, for instance, ought not to be allowed. Dress code violation must result in no-entry. Otherwise, it just becomes a big joke, and no one takes these norms seriously.

For Audiences:

If people don’t truly like such music, it’s best they stay away. Let others who love it get a chance to be there. I saw so many people on watsapp, messaging, talking…this is disrespectful of the norms to be followed in a concert. It distracts others, and insults the performers!

Being on time. The concert was to start at 7 pm, and people were told to be in by 6.45. Because too many people came late the concert was delayed. Rain was the excuse.  And even after that wait, people were trickling in all the time (even past an hour into the concert!). When are we going to take punctuality seriously!! We need to learn a lot from other cultures where time is respected and honored to the minute.

Dress code. When the pass says “business casuals”, it’s sad to see people come in shabbily dressed….some of them came in with crumpled shirts two buttons open and slippers! How we dress shows the regard (or lack of it) we have for the event, the performers and the organizers. It’s time we learned to respect norms rather than flout them arrogantly because we are so sure the organizers won’t enforce anyway! When restaurants and pubs insist on dress code (formal shoes etc) people follow it…or are not allowed in. Why is it we can’t show the same stringency for a concert?!

Awareness. Audiences need to pay a little more attention to concert etiquette and understanding a bit about how the performer-audience interaction goes. Applauding between movements is a common mistake, and it leaves the performers a bit bewildered. Last time a British orchestra was here, people applauded before the piece ended (not knowing it was just a pause). Movements and the structures of pieces performed are usually outlined in the information brochures handed out; some attention to that will help avoid confusion.

If some of these points are taken care of, concerts would be a lot more organized, and far more enjoyable for everyone. 

© 2018 by Konrad Fernandez.