Tag Archives: Can we stop the ridiculous routine of bows at the end of classical music performances?

Can we stop the ridiculous routine of bows at the end of classical music performances?

Hola a todos. The back and forth looks ridiculous. It looks silly. These are adults engaging in this behaviour? The classical music field has many ludicrous traditions that some nut(s) dreamed up, and this is one of them. Everyone knows this routine. The performance ends and the audience begins their 20-30 minutes of applause, which becomes a “performance” in itself.

The soloist(s) and conductor bow and then walk across the stage to that door that opens. Soloists and conductor enter that room off stage (it’s really just backstage), they pause for 5-10 seconds, turn around and then walk back out to the edge of the stage to bow again. Why not just stay out there and bow occasionally? What does leaving the stage for 30 seconds do? What’s the purpose of that? Has no one with critical thinking skills ever considered this? Soloist(s) and conductor repeat this routine up to 10+ times, walking back and forth from podium to that room. Sometimes they rush to that room as if they have a time constraint even though they don’t. They walk back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. Reminds me of a bird in a cuckoo clock. In some cases, production stops recording so one has no idea how much longer this walking back and forth from podium to backstage lasted. In other cases, production stops recording after the very first bows which tells me that production finds this silly tradition ridiculous as well.

Mi amigo/My friend was the first to bring this up. He spoke of how ridiculous it looks after a performance for the soloists (vocal or instrumental) and conductor to wear out the floor walking back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth from the edge of the stage to the stage door after a performance.

Why don’t the performers all stay on stage, bow occasionally, smile and occasionally say gracias/thank you in whatever international language they choose to the audience, bow once or twice more and THEN leave the stage and don’t return.

Or, do the back and forth routine only twice and don’t go back out there to the edge of the stage.

The point is that the audience (with few exceptions) doesn’t have the intelligence to leave and say “Enough of this nonsense. We liked the performance and we showed we liked it with our brief applause. But we don’t need to keep applauding for the rest of the night. A short applause is sufficient.”

I’ve noticed repeatedly that the vocal soloists-screamers — who too often mistake screaming for singing beautifully — in a performance absolutely gush in delight over the endless applause because they seemingly think it’s all about them and it makes them feel like rock stars apparently, or that’s how they look with their broad smiles — especially the females as they seem to adore the attention they’re getting — as they gaze all about the hall thinking, “I’m so glad you loved me and my beautiful voice (when I mistook screaming for singing beautifully).” Even though the vocal soloists-screamers are treated to rock star treatment, the reality is that since this is a classical music performance probably nobody outside this concert hall knows who any of them are. And why does the audience seem to worship and glorify vocal soloists-screamers when they usually have minor roles in a symphonic choral performance? If only the audience could get as worked up over the (hopefully) superbly-prepared Symphony Chorus. The Chorus and Orchestra are the true “stars” or soloists in a symphonic choral performance. The vocal screamers sit silently most of the time during the performance. And just because someone sings (or screams) alone merits such royal treatment? Why? That’s the way the classical audience has been brainwashed while they see the Chorus as second class musicians.

Another stupid tradition is having the vocal soloists parked on the edge of the stage staring out over the audience. What idiot came up with that idea of positioning the vocal soloists-screamers on the edge of the stage on either side of the conductor? Their backs are to all the other musicians on the stage. They can’t even see the performance. They can only hear it behind them. Like listening to a CD. They sit much of the time during the performance staring at the back wall of the hall or looking at their score following along the entire performance. And usually they can’t even see the conductor easily because he’s usually slightly behind them. The vocal soloist-screamers should be seated near but not in the Chorus. Over on the left side or maybe down in front of the Chorus as I’ve seen done in some performances from the EU. Or, if there’s room on stage, put the soprano in the violin section, the alto in the viola section, the tenor in the cello section, the bass near the double basses. They did this latter suggestion in a performance at Boston University’s School of Music. It worked perfectly. The soprano screamer (and she did scream with heavy vibrato) sat among the violinists. I wonder if the violinists’ ears have recovered by now?

Some readers may be asking: But what about encores?

For encores (pianists come to mind, but not limited to pianists): Play something short. About 5 minutes in length, not some 20 minute piece where the Orchestra is sitting there with nothing to do and thinking, “How long does this piece last? It keeps going and going. This pianist has turned the encore into a solo recital.”

And for encores, you don’t have to play something “showy” and “flashy” to show off your speed skills. A mood piece is preferable, in my opinion. It “calms” the audience after your “main performance” whether it be solo recital or in a concerto.

I’ve seen some pianists whose encore almost turns into a solo recital. I’ve seen some pianists play 3 encores. That is way too much, in my opinion. They seem to love the attention. And of course each encore followed by the ridiculous routine of bows of walking back and forth from the piano to back stage. After a few trips back and forth and because the audience seems to be of a mindset that it’s impolite to stop clapping at any time, then the pianist sat back down and played another piece. That was followed by another round of the bowing routine. Then the pianist sat down yet again for another piece. At this rate and with this applause-happy audience and with a pianist who hasn’t been coached on the appropriate length of encores and seems quite comfortable with playing all night because “they love me and this is helping my career,” we’ll be here until 3AM. Meanwhile, the Orchestra had nothing to do but sit listening to an unscheduled piano recital.

A 10-15 minute piece is too long for an encore in my opinion, especially with an Orchestra sitting on the stage. If anything, the encore should involve the Orchestra — and this should be prearranged with the Orchestra and conductor of course — following a concerto performance where the last part of the concerto is played again (at an agreed starting point of course and where it’s easy for everyone to start). That would include the Orchestra as equals in the encore rather than making it all about the soloist. But if not, the soloist can play a very short encore by him or herself.

In some places in the EU, they have stopped this bowing ritual or at least shortened it. Conductor, harpsichordist and horn player Václav Luks and his superb Collegium 1704 (Orchestra and Chorus) from the Czech Republic come to mind. After sufficient applause — determined by either the conductor of the performance or the First Concertmaster — all the musicians (Orchestra and Chorus) file off the stage and they don’t return. The message being sent: Time to go home, people. Glad you liked our performance. Come again. See you next time. Fin./The End.

What about las flores/the flowers given to the musicians: In my suggested way of doing bows, the flowers can be brought out shortly after the applause begins.

And por favor/please: Those receiving flowers — usually the soloist(s) and conductor — should have the maturity to keep their flowers. I’ve seen some male conductors with this, “What am I supposed to do with these?” look on his face (instead of looking appreciative) when given a bouquet of flowers following a performance. The flowers given to the musicians are a gift to them. Don’t give your flowers to someone else. Why would one give their flowers away? Do you give other gifts away in public view? The male performers should never feel that flowers threaten their masculinity as seems to be the case with many male conductors. Imagine innocent flowers having the power to strip a guy of his masculinity. Who would have ever thought that flowers have that much power?! Any guy who feels that way needs to examine his sexist ideas, his masculinity (or lack of) and his possible Male Patriarchy mentality and why he feels that innocent flowers strip him of his masculinity. I’ve mostly seen this from male conductors. With the few female conductors that there are, they have the maturity to understand that the flowers given to them belong to them. The male conductors often engage in a sexist gesture of giving their flowers to only the females in the Orchestra. Why only the females, Mr Conductor? Why do conductors never give their flowers to any of the guys? Didn’t they perform as well as the females? I can hear them now: “Oh but we can’t do that because you know how that would look! Goodness me!” No, I don’t know how that would look, what do you mean? Are you saying that it would look like you’re queer by giving another guy flowers? Are you telling me that only queer guys give each other flowers? If you were secure with yourself and your sexuality and didn’t have some internalised anti-queer feelings, you wouldn’t care how it looked. You wouldn’t care if people thought you are queer. Instead, you would maturely say, “People can think what they want, they will anyway.” By comparison, some queers are perceived to be straight but they’re not and they don’t get all bent out of shape just because someone perceives them as straight. So why do you, Mr Conductor, get all bent out of shape if you are thought to be queer, even if you’re not? Of course you wouldn’t if you were secure with your own sexuality and saw queer people no differently than yourself. I’ve seen the female musicians with a confused look on their face when Mr Conductor gives his flowers to the closest female musician(s). She stands there holding her violin or viola as if she’s thinking, “Why are you giving your flowers to me? They’re your flowers. Can’t you appreciate them and keep them? Or are you of a sexist mentality that guys don’t like flowers or are not supposed to like flowers? What’s your hang up with flowers, Mr Conductor?” Again, if Mr Conductor were secure with his own sexuality and with himself as a person, he wouldn’t care how it looked to keep his flowers, or is he possibly in the closet? Some of us have thought that about some male conductors for some time despite that left hand wedding ring you wear implying you’re married to a female. I’m not fooled by that ring. I should point out that being married to a female means nothing, even if you have some children. There are thousands of gay guys around the world married to females. They’re called closet cases and they’re following the life that their anti-queer prejudiced and bigoted family expects of them — including pumping out babies — and they’re living with gay shame and living a “straight” life. The world is full of them. There are far more queer people in the world than we are ever told by any statistics and the overwhelming majority of them are living in the closet. And when they are not with “the wife” as they warmly and affectionally refer to her (as opposed to “my wife”), they’re checking out guys when she’s not looking or not around. In many cases they’re not fooling anyone no matter how many children they pump out. Some of us have noticed that closet cases breed as much as possible. It’s intended to prove to others how “straight” they are by having an entire brood of children. Here’s one example. I think this gay guy and his former wife produced 4 children as you can see here. That’s intended to convince people that the guy is “straight” and a “real man.” (roll eyes) But some of us are not convinced by that breeding behaviour because we see Mr Closet Case for what he is. Therefore, your wedding ban does not fool or convince me and others. Check out this article, which is really about closet cases living a straight life in Deutschland/Germany:

“The research found that out of this sub-group of participants, all of whom self-identified as homosexual, three-quarters of them had never had sex with a man…Professor Kathleen Herkommer, who led the study, explained that these men’s mental health can suffer as a result of hiding their sexuality, and that this groundbreaking research could help the drive to help them. “We identified a group that recognises its homosexuality, but do not live it, and instead lead and have led a purely heterosexual life – often with a wife and children,” she said.”
[Source: One in 10 middle-aged gay men have had vaginal sex in the past three months, according to German study.]

Bottom Line: Keep your flowers, Mr Conductor, and don’t give them to female musicians. Why can’t Mr Conductor graciously accept the flowers like any other gift he’s given?

Who would have ever thought that innocent flowers are threatening to male conductors and many guys in general? The flowers are a gift to you for your performance from orchestral management. Have the maturity to keep them and appreciate them, and take them home. Otherwise it will be expected and become another twisted, sick tradition that all guys must give their flowers to the nearest and most convenient female, whether he wants them or not. Muchas gracias. Chau.—el barrio rosa