Things that I think and do
I went to one of the BBC Proms yesterday, and while the second half of the concert was absolutely incredible, it was something other than the music that caught my attention in the first half. In fact, I switched off for that half-hour segment of the concert – no matter how hyped up this Beethoven guy is, I listen to the first five minutes of his piano concertos and then zone out totally.
What I noticed most during that otherwise tedious first half was, strangely enough, the conspicuously silent audience.
I don’t know if many of you have been to the Proms before (if not, you absolutely should check it out: www.bbc.co.uk/proms) or know how they work, the basic rundown is that at least one concert a day is put on at the Royal Albert Hall and anyone can go and queue for a ticket during the day and get in for a fiver.
Whenever I’ve been to Proms the Hall – which I’m reliably informed can hold around 5,000 people – has never been less than 80 or 90% full. That in itself is remarkable. Admittedly I’ve mostly been to ones that were fairly popular; I’m quite picky about which pieces I want to stand through after queuing for up to six hours.
I’d wager a substantial amount that there’s an average crowd of probably 3,500 during a season – imagine that number of people going to see a classical music concert on a daily basis. And even more amazingly, they all manage to stay incredibly quiet throughout the performance. I did not hear ONE sneeze during the whole two hours the orchestra was playing for.
Whether or not you agree, or indeed care, that audiences should remain silent all the while the music is playing, is it not wondrous that out of such a large crowd not one person let any sternutatory urge get the better of them? There were even very few coughs, aside from the compulsory thorough throat-clearance between movements.
This leads me to a scientific theory that the fear of embarrassment is the most effective deterrent to sneezing. I had a slightly tickly nostril at one point, but the terror at the thought of 3,499 other people glaring at me and mentally tutting must have made my subconscious keep the urge under control. Proof if ever I saw it.
If you’ve been reading this and wondering what on earth I’m on about, I can tell you that this whole thought process took perhaps ten minutes. Afterwards I developed a couple of fledgling business ideas, including a novelty slang texting app and conveyor belts for postmen to send letters down drives.
All in all I had a productive half-hour, and it was more entertaining for me than trying to stop Beethoven’s 2nd Piano Concerto putting me to sleep.