The other day, an American got thrown out of a concert in Britain for crowdsurfing – surely not the first time that’s happened. Here’s the catch – it was at a performance of Handel’s Messiah, and the offender was a Stanford University expert in “non-equilibrium molecular reaction dynamics.” Weren’t expecting that, were you?

The concert was at the Bristol Old Vic, on a series designed to be “accessible and informal” according to its director, Tom Morris, who tells his audiences: “Clap or whoop when you like, and no shushing other people.” The audience stands in a mosh pit in front of the stage and beer is allowed.

The offender, Dr. David R. Glowacki, told the Irish Independent: “Classical music, trying to seem cool and less stuffy, reeks of some sort of fossilized art form undergoing a midlife crisis…Witness what happened to me when I started cheering with a 30-strong chorus shouting ‘praise God’ two metres from my face: I get physically assaulted, knocked down to the floor and forcibly dragged out by two classical vigilantes.”

Once you’ve stopped giggling, there are some things to talk about here. First of all, good for Mr. Morris and the Bristol Old Vic for encouraging audiences to show their appreciation for what they are hearing. Why not try it?

For those of you who disagree and say that clapping and whooping while the music is playing is simply out of bounds, I offer you a letter from Mozart to his father, rejoicing in exactly that behavior at the premiere of the “Paris” symphony. So there.

Seriously, the idea that concertgoers should be quiet and well-behaved is a recent phenomenon – here’s a description of what went on at Baroque Opera houses during performances – some of it would make Silvio Berlusconi blush.

But what about Mr. Glowacki, and the audience members (not the staff of the Old Vic, mind you) who took it upon themselves to toss him out for his behavior? Were they right? Going forward, it appears Mr. Morris has decided to let the crowd decide: “The Bristol Proms are contributing to a ground-breaking way of thinking which will pave the way for a new kind of classical concert. But by allowing an audience to respond in whatever way they want, you also allow an audience to self-regulate, as we discovered.”

Sounds reasonable to me – what do you think? Let’s not forget, audiences already “self-regulate” – anyone who’s ever disturbed a concert hall with a cell phone or cough drop wrapper can attest to that!

So who crossed the line here, if anyone? Did Mr. Morris, by having beer and a mosh pit at the concert? Mr. Glowacki, for trying to crowdsurf? What about those two audience members who threw him out?  Maybe they crossed the line from being scolds to, as Mr. Glowacki so vividly termed them, “classical vigilantes.” I’m not sure where I stand on this, but I do like that it’s being talked about! What do you think? Please post your comments!


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