LACO Lens is a series of articles celebrating all things LACO in preparation for our 50th Anniversary! Stay tuned for more behind-the-scenes guides to make the most of your experience.

So, you want to hear some classical music, eh?

Perhaps you’re a student seeking to be humbled by the masters or an aging Bach buff who’s never seen his work performed live. Perhaps your friend is dragging you or you’re trying to impress a hot date. Maybe you just want a nice night out.

Whatever brings you to LACO’s Orchestral Series, you’re probably wondering the same thing we all do when we embark on a new adventure: “What the heck is this experience going to be like?”

The answers may surprise you.

It’s not as formal as you think

photo Jamie Pham
photo Jamie Pham
At my first LACO concert, I expected everyone to be wearing black tie. I pictured floor-grazing dresses, pearls strung gracefully around long necks, fingers adorned with diamonds larger than golf balls, men with monocles bedecked in top hat and coattails. Clearly, my idea of formalwear is firmly situated in the 20th century.

But, unlike my Breakfast at Tiffany’s fantasy, the reality is that you can wear pretty much anything you want to a concert hall. In fact, jeans (the pinnacle of casual attire) seem to be a LACO patron’s garment of choice.

LACO legend has it that one of our corporate sponsors used to bring a gaggle of girlfriends dressed to the nines (nine-inch heels, that is) in clubbing attire. If you’re thinking tube dresses and sparkles, you’ve thought right. And why not? Music is all about expression, so express yourself!

Just remember, the sand shack rule still applies, with a LACO twist: no shirt, no shoes, no symphony.

It’s still a social event

photo Madeline Routon
photo Madeline Routon
The lights dim. A hush bathes the hall in silence. The shiver of violins begins, giving way to a swell of feeling as other instruments join in. You turn to your friend and whisper, “Wow, this is really great!” The music crashes to a cacophonous halt, everyone turns to look at you with disdain, and you’re so embarrassed that you can never show your face again. For shame.

If this is the kind of nightmare scenario you picture when you think “classical music concert,” you’re not alone! But as much as pop culture wants to make classical seem serious and scary, the stakes just aren’t that high.

Sure, there is a time and place for talking, and during the performance isn’t it, but that doesn’t mean that a LACO concert isn’t a great time for socializing!

The lobby is a lively hotspot. Laugh and be merry! Grab some wine, pick up a button or brochure, chat up the group of people next to you. Maybe someone out there loves that obscure Locatelli concerto as much as you do!

Musicians are people too

photo Jamie Pham
photo Jamie Pham
Growing up in LA, I’ve had to realize that celebrities aren’t the “untouchables” that they are made out to be. I’ve quite literally bumped into Danny Masterson (Steven Hyde from That ’70s Show) at Ralphs, and nearly ran face-first into Ryan Gosling while he was filming a scene from La La Land. It happens more often than you’d think.

At LACO, that barrier between artist and audience is intentionally lowered. After all, we pride ourselves on making great music personal!

Musicians are known to emerge from their dark dens backstage to grab a snack, say hi to friends and family, and pick up a much-needed glass of wine. Never hesitate to say hello or pay them a compliment! Who wouldn’t want to get some props for a difficult solo they just nailed?

You can also come an hour before curtain for our pre-concert lectures, where you can sit as close to the stage as you want and get up close and personal with the evening’s artists and composers.

No one will yell at you if you clap at the wrong time

photo Jamie Pham
photo Jamie Pham
I promise.

The question we get most often from patrons is “When do I clap?”

I’ll be honest, I’m not a musician, let alone a classically trained one, and I still don’t know the reasoning behind the classical music clapping rule. I picked it up by blindly following what everyone else was doing, much in the same way that I know which side of the plate a fork goes on but have no idea why.

I’ll let you in on the general rule: with classical music, you clap after pieces, not movements. Take a Beethoven symphony, for example. Perhaps it has four movements, or parts, each with a brief pause after them that signals the move to the next. DON’T CLAP HERE.

Clap when the entire piece is done. You’ll know it’s over when the conductor, soloist and/or concertmaster (read: the folks front and center) stand up and turn to face the audience. If you’re still confused, just clap when everyone else claps. Or don’t clap at all. Live your life.

If you do clap after a movement, though, don’t worry – no one will say anything. We’ll all just judge you silently from our seats. (Kidding!)

So, there you have it. Classical music doesn’t have to be so scary! We’re not all judgmental watchmen ready to hiss a fit over the purity of our art. Musicians and staff all work hard because we want you to have a good time! Enjoy yourself, listen to some great music, perhaps have a personal experience with a new friend. This evening is for you, so fear not. Take advantage of it!