Formal Concert
Credit: Oregon Symphony

In any new situation, there are sure to be a few social do's and don'ts, even more when in a formal setting. Whether you're looking to attend an orchestral event, a choir, any other sort of formal musical performance -- or even plays -- there are a few tips that will go a long way to make your experience more enjoyable and less awkward or uncomfortable.


Don't be "That Guy (or Girl)"

The rest of these pointers will be in more of a chronological order, but if you read nothing else but this sub-topic, you'll already be doing pretty well. The biggest tip is to not cause any sort of disturbence of the performance, whether it's a musical or a play of some sort. In almost any performance, there's seemingly at least one person who decided to bring their one-year-old to the show, and they apparently never thought through the noise that was about to be created, or they simply didn't care.

Don't be that guy or gal who brings their child who can't help but make noise, and don't be the one who has an uncontrollable cough in the midst of a huge, quiet room or does any number of extremely-annoying-and-easily-avoidable things. If you can keep that simple bit in mind, you will be doing quite well.


Before Leaving... Food, Restrooms & Tickets!

Most of the time when going to any concert or formal performance, you won't know exactly how long the event will last, or if there will be an intermission. It's a good idea to use the restroom and eat before you go, otherwise these things might be all you think about when you could otherwise be enjoying yourself.

It should go without saying, but still... Don't forget to bring your ticket(s)! Put them in your car or something right now so you don't forget, otherwise you may be coming home a lot sooner than you'd thought. Come to think of it, you might as well just leave for the show right now, or leave at a time so that you'll arrive at least 15 minutes earlyIf you arrive even a minute late, there's a good chance you won't be let in. Often times parking is hard to come by too, so let me reiterate again: Leave early, with your ticket(s)!


Be the Least-Distracting Person in the Room

If Priority #1 and Priority #3 look to be at least closely related, well that's no accident. Still, there are plenty of other ways to get people angry with you at a public performance, and it's worth repeating that the single best tip I could give you is to do nothing that could cause others to enjoy the performance less, if that is at all in your power.

What specific things can you do? Well, primarily, follow others' leads: Don't ever be the first to clap. Sometimes different songs or acts of a play or what-have-you will seem to be ending, but it won't really be the end. Don't clap until it seems like everyone else has! Also, though you may love this some new rendition of Carol of the Bells that is being performed, save yourself some trouble and don't sing unless the performers invite you to, or at least don't do it unless a good number of others around you are singing.


Enjoy Yourself!

So it may seem like I'm making the whole experience sound like it's about not making the people in the audience around you angry. While it's true that this will help make your experience more enjoyable, you could still end up miserable if you don't enjoy yourself. So if you're quiet and not possibly annoying anyone, sit back, close your eyes, and take it all in! You've been so thoughtful toward everyone else in the audience up to this point, that now it's your turn. Take a deep breath and take it all in like the glutton for beauty and music that you are. With any luck, you'll go to a wonderful performance and have a great time. Still, no guarantees that you might be a row away from a noisy baby the whole time.

Further Reading

So perhaps you have some deep desire not to only get through a formal music performance while enjoying yourself, but also to thoroughly understand the history of such musical composers/playwrights, or perhaps to impress others. Luckily, it won't take too much to dive deeper. Some suggested readings are below, but there are plenty of other great and simple books out there for digging more into plays or classical/choral music. Continue on this beautiful journey and enjoy yourself! Who knows where you'll end up?

Classical Music For Dummies
Amazon Price: $24.99 $8.94 Buy Now
(price as of Jan 28, 2016)
A great book for digging deeper into many of the most famous classical music composers. A bit of reading in this, and you can look at least educated, if not like a scholar!
The Importance of Being Earnest and Other Plays: Lady Windermere's Fan; Salome; A Woman of No Importance; An Ideal Husband; The Importance of Being Earnest (Oxford World's Classics)
Amazon Price: $10.95 $3.85 Buy Now
(price as of Jan 28, 2016)
This is just an example of the kind of reading and topic fodder that can help you seem and even become informed and "cultured" in plays. Oscar Wilde is just the beginning!