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When is applause acceptable? Is it sometimes out of place?
This topic has been in my mind since last Sunday morning, when my choir was applauded immediately after singing the anthem.
My feeling was that applause was most welcome at that moment. In thinking it over after the service, many varied scenarios ran through my head.
While growing up in the Midwest, applause was never heard in church, whether that be a service or a concert.
A later surprise
Many years later, I was taken by surprise when playing a concert in a church in Maryland with a cellist. When we entered to begin the concert, there was no applause.
Things had changed. In an earlier time, I would not have expected to hear applause in a church.
Programs often included a line encouraging applause during concerts held in churches. Audiences were frequently unsure what the norm was, and it changed from place to place.
Another audience instruction sometimes appears that requests no applause until the end of a group in the program. (Applause after ever song in a voice recital can add a lot of time to a program, as well as interrupting the theme of a set or story line of a cycle.)
A few years after the Maryland concert, I attended a service at The Riverside Church in New York in which the sermon received a standing ovation!
This was a first in my experience. The preacher had been channeling his Pentecostal roots, and the congregation was appreciative.
In other genres, such as jazz and opera, applause during performances is expected. Think of especially well-navigated solos and ensemble sections, for example.
Just last week
A concert review published last Monday in The New York Times included the following quote:
Mr. Norrington encouraged applause after Mr. Denk stormed with aplomb through Beethoven’s long, wild cadenza.
That means that the audience at Carnegie Hall applauded at the end of the 1st movement!
My opinion so far
It strikes me that applause probably varies depending on geographical location, venue, and type of audience.
If applause is spontaneous, but not an uninformed response (i.e. following every song), and doesn’t feel forced, then it can be a wonderful thing.