To Sit or to Stand: Applause at a performance

by epi on January 2, 2012

Q: When are standing ovations a proper expression of appreciation? Are they meant to express appreciation for the musical composition itself or for the musicians performance of it? Standing ovations seem to have become the norm at recitals and chamber music performances, etc. and no longer seem to be reserved for truly exceptional performances.

A: When audiences are moved by a performance, they applaud it, often rising to their feet to show their true appreciation. You would have to interview each to find out what he or she is applauding. Usually, it is for the performance of the music, although compelling music, when performed well, is part of the appreciation. There is no accounting for what an audience considers exceptional, so if you are on the receiving end, simply be happy if an ovation is sent your way.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Jerry January 2, 2012 at 10:42 am

Perhaps the original question has been edited, but the call of the question written here appears to request information as to when someone should stand and applaud, particularly when others are standing and applauding. This is very clear from the final sentence in the question, which criticizes the perceived fact that standing ovations have become the new normal. Implicit in this question is whether it is rude to keep your seat when everyone else is offering a standing ovation. The answer to this question is “no.”

[Seriously, EPI, if you need staff to help answer questions, let me know. You have my e-mail address!]


Heather January 3, 2012 at 10:26 pm

I know I’m a grouch, but I do find it irritating that everyone seems to jump out of their seats for an ovation whether one is deserved or not. Partly because it is irksome to feel obligated, but also because it leaves me no way to express my admiration when someone has really given an unusually good performance.


Anne January 8, 2012 at 6:25 pm

I agree with Jerry and Heather completely. As a musician myself, I bothers me when the audience jumps to their feet with the performance is over, regardless of what time of performance it was. It makes me think that this society will just except anything and if people participate in the ovation just because others are it says they will except anything that the herd does too. Sorry, if I sound too critical. I have gone to two performances in the last few months and I really did not think either of them were ovation worthy and while everyone else was standing, I was the odd one out and sat.


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