Open Phones: Stage Calls

Friday, January 13, 2012

Alan Gilbert halted a performance by the New York Philharmonic when a cell phone went off and didn't stop. WQXR host Naomi Lewin was there and reports back. Plus, listeners relate stories of performances that have been stopped by ringing cell phones.


Naomi Lewin

Comments [32]

bob h from nj

I was at the Mahler performance last Tuesday. I recalled an incident at the Irish Rep a few years ago in which James Naughton tore himself from the embrace of a young woman to lunge into the audience, seized the ringing cellphone from the audience, and smash it on the floor. I was about ready to do that, I was so mad. Why do these stupid, unnecessary fetish objects have to be brought into the concert hall at all?

Jan. 13 2012 05:40 PM
L.K. from brooklyn, ny

ahhhh. this story makes me smile. and reminds me of one of my own circa the mid 1990s seattle. i'm a former professional classical ballet dancer and remember the evening the director of the pacific northwest ballet orchestra silenced his pit during the middle of an overture.

it's been long enough (i was a teenager at the time) that i'm not sure whether it was that of kent stowell/tchaikovsky's the nutcracker (which does not accompany any dancing) or balanchine/mendhelsson's midsummer night's dream (the beginning portion of which contains no dancing). at any rate....when watching a ballet the orchestra remains subterraneanly hidden, while the conductor remains visible so as not to distract from the primary performers. during a ballet overture the curtains also remain shut, meaning all focus (until the dancing begins) is on the spotlighted director. dancers are also able to view the stage and orchestra pit from television monitors backstage.

phones were an anomalous novelty at the time, but just as irritating. and someone's cell had indeed starting ringing. after the third or fourth ring, the director simply halted..................his baton.........mid-air.......and the music.................... stopped.

he kept his baton and armed raised on high, for what felt like several minutes, until the individual shut off their phone. once convinced that the disturbance was over, the director then began the overture ANEW. from the top. repetition and all.

a ballsy, mucho appreciated action i've never forgotten.

: )

Jan. 13 2012 12:15 PM
Liz from Nyc

Phillip Glass and his ensemble played Koyaanisqatsi in concert with the film and the NY Philharmonic at Avery Fisher Hall. Not done there since 1985. A very rare experience only held for 3 nights

A phone call was made to all ticket holders 3 days in advance with a very long and stern message saying 'be on time.. Absolutely no late seating. '

And then.... 15 minutes into the live performance they let in not one round of late comers but 3 rounds of people scurry in and to take there seats. In all I would say 50 additional people came in.
We should have gotten our money back. That event was even more appalling then a guy who doesn't know how to work his iphone.

Jan. 13 2012 12:12 PM

I was in the audience for the play Wicked in 2010. During a really touching scene, the main character Elphaba is dancing on the stage by herself in complete silence. It was that precise moment that a nokia ringtone phone starts ringing. The ringing felt like it lasted FOREVER. The actress kept dancing and the play went on without stopping, but the moment was completely changed and no longer the powerful piece it was suppose to be.

Jan. 13 2012 12:05 PM
Jane from Brooklyn

I was at a Mark Morris audition when a cell phone went off somewhere in the pile of dancers' bags against the wall. Mr. Morris halted the audition in a fury, demanding, "Whose phone is that? Whose is it??" No one fessed up. Morris dug through the bags himself, uprooting the phone and holding it aloft until the shame-faced dancer came forward to claim his phone and skulk out of the studio....Yikes.

Jan. 13 2012 11:59 AM
Amy from Manhattan

DaveG, that's a great story! Segovia said it just right.

Jan. 13 2012 11:59 AM

I was performing with Meredith Monk at Town Hall. A couple minutes into Dolmen Music we were all evacuated due to a bomb scare. After spending 20 minutes on the street, everyone filed back in and we started the performance again.

Jan. 13 2012 11:59 AM
themaestro from upstate ny

I was playing keyboards in a tour of Phantom of the Opera in 1995 (not Andrew Lloyd Weber's)in Lisbon, Portugal. During one the Phantom's numbers, a sandbag swung out the wings and knocked the Phantom over. In another show in the same run, the chandelier got stuck on the way down, although that didn't stop the show. You had to be there

Jan. 13 2012 11:58 AM
David in NYC from NYC

In 1975 I saw Monty Python live at the City Center. Someone in the front row (a seat we'd all have liked) had those tiny white packets filled with an unstable crystalline compound, which POP loudly upon striking the floor. He kept tossing them onto the stage. We could see them as streaks through the stage lights and then -- POP! Over and over. Graham Chapman was annoyed. They were doing the Argument Clinic. When he finally figured out who it was he stopped mid-sentence and yelled "I WANT HIM OUT!!" They took the offender away, we ALL erupted in applause, and he asked us where he was. We gave him the next line in unison and the sketch continued.

Jan. 13 2012 11:58 AM
Stephen from Brooklyn

I saw Yma Sumac in NYC in the late 80s at the Supper Club and she stopped the show to admonish the audience for snickering at her.

Jan. 13 2012 11:57 AM
Gj from NYC

New York audiences are incredibly badly mannered: Walking around in the middle of performances, talking, making noise. In general, audiences in Europe are a lot more cultivated.

Jan. 13 2012 11:57 AM
Anne from Brooklyn

I was watching a dance performance at the Joyce when my cell phone went off. The leader of the dance troupe was doing a solo performance as I desperately rooted around in my giant bag searching for my phone. This was back in the olden days and I had a clamshell phone that didn't light up, so I never found it, it rang and rang, and I was so excruciatingly embarrassed. The dancer didn't stop.

It was my roommate calling to tell me that our favorite Freaks and Geeks episode was on in re-run.

Jan. 13 2012 11:57 AM
Ken from NJ

I give lectures to groups, usually non-profits, and before I begin, I thank the audience in advance -- if their cell phones go off, the group will accept a $5.00 donation.

Jan. 13 2012 11:56 AM
Paula from NY

At a recent performance of The Enchanted Island at the Met, the woman next to me started to check her smart phone repeatedly during the last 1/2 hour. After the fifth time of the glare being whipped out of her purse, I finally asked her to stop. It occurred to me that if it had been at a movie theater, I would have said something the first time she did it. Hmmmmmmm.

Jan. 13 2012 11:55 AM
Bob from New York

Your station needs to have a Miss Manners lesson since you continued a broadcast with a reporter during a prayer at the 2004 Republican Convention.

Jan. 13 2012 11:55 AM
dave from manhattan.

i was on stage playing a character haunted by the voice of his dead father. of course, at the end, he has a carthitic release and is freed from the voices in his head. well he says, "i dont hear him, i don't hear him" and right at that moment a cellphone went off and i had nothing to but say "but now he's calling". big laughs, a mortified audience member and an angry playwright.

Jan. 13 2012 11:54 AM
sharon from harlem

had Gilbert NOT stopped, the alarm of the iPhone (it was not a call!) would have continued to go off as the Mahler ended. it gets quieter and quieter to the very end of the symphony, and the phone was already drowning out the violins when Gilbert stopped. i can't imagine it becoming any worse than it was when he stopped. kudos to him and his incredible poise.

Jan. 13 2012 11:54 AM
Elisabeth from the Lower East Side

How very appropriate, especially during a Mahler Symphony. Anyone knowledgeable about music history will know that Mahler himself stopped conducting as soon as there was someone coughing or whispering in the audience. Alan Gilbert seems to know!

Jan. 13 2012 11:53 AM
Janine from NYC

Kudos to Gilbert. People have no manners these days. We must endure other people's cell phone rings and conversations want it or not.

And good for Patti Lupone. No respect whatsoever.

Jan. 13 2012 11:53 AM
bernie from bklyn

ever try and see a movie at the court st. theater in brooklyn?

Jan. 13 2012 11:53 AM
Kate from Brooklyn

What's with Broadway theaters permitting food and drink - and sometimes even hawking candy, etc. during intermission? Those crinkly rustlings and candy box shakings are truly irksome - but actually promoted, since there isn't a no food/no drink restriction.

Jan. 13 2012 11:53 AM

I went to see a philhormonic performance back in 2004 (a gift from WNYC!) and the main performer (violinist) fell backwards during her performance. She tripped with her beautiful long dress. The audience gasped!

Jan. 13 2012 11:52 AM
ericka from park slope

my very first concert was Bruce Springsteen in Lexington, KY. At one point, Springsteen stopped the show to throw a glowstick off the stage saying 'I hate these damn things!'

Jan. 13 2012 11:52 AM
marco from Manhattan

Poor manners are the norm these days, no surprise.

Jan. 13 2012 11:51 AM
bernie from bklyn

this is why it's almost always a disappointment to go anywhere in nyc lately. people are terrible and it's getting worse. our society is filled with inconsiderate, self-serving mongrels in all levels of society.
i don't understand why people aren't instantly ejected from the movie or any performance if their cell phone goes off?
time to move to the woods.

Jan. 13 2012 11:32 AM
desdemona finch from brooklyn

As long as you have self-centered rude people, you're going to have interrupted performances whether by cell phone or other means, The prevalence of cell phones makes this kind of rudeness more acceptable in society because no one seems realize that there's a world outside their own.

Years ago, I played a gig at a club in which the girlfriend of the musician who played before me came right up on my stage in the middle of a song. She had very important matters to attend to. She had to retrieve her boyfriend's shirt, which he felt compelled to take off during his set.

As if the audience really needed to see him without a shirt. In fact, he should have given them their money back for that. It was bad enough that he left the stage a mess with pools of spilled water all over the place. Needless to say, I felt compelled to stop my set and ask the audience if anyone else would like to come up to join me. I was not amused. Not one bit and even knew the musician who played before me.

I am one who is not afraid to go up to rude people at concerts and say, "I didn't pay $20 to hear you yack all night. Please take it outside." The same goes for cell phone craziness. It's a tool to make our lives easier not make it easier for us to act like ill-behaved self-centered children.

Jan. 13 2012 11:24 AM
Dan from Brooklyn

It's a modern day situation. We've all been at concerts where this happens; but how often are you the person NEXT to the person who's cell phone goes off? That person should have helped the lady turn her phone off after it happened the 2nd time! It's clear that she didn't know how to do it herself, so why wouldn't someone help her? It didn't need to get to Gilbert stopping the concert.

Jan. 13 2012 11:23 AM
DaveG from High Bridge, NJ

When I was in music school in D.C. in the mid-70s I heard Segovia at the Kennedy Center. I was lucky enough to get a turned-in ticket on the floor. Three young women were in the center, a few rows from the stage. They continued whispering to each other from the start of the concert through the first two pieces. (Note: no cell phones and no amplification back then...)
Part way through the 3rd piece (Bach I think...) Segovia stopped in mid-movement, looked right at them and loudly asked: "Ladies, did you come to talk or to listen?"
They shut right up. There was no applause. He went back to playing.

Jan. 13 2012 11:14 AM
Judy Cooper from Manhattan

I was there. Alan Gilbert is my hero!

Jan. 13 2012 11:08 AM
Jola from Sunnyside

I went to NY Philharmonic and a person few rows in front of me was texting for part of the concert. I couldn’t make myself to ignore her bright screen. Even that she was quite, she ruined my experience and I was irritated and angry that someone is so selfish.

Jan. 13 2012 10:51 AM
Glenn from Manhattan

The reason classical performers wear black and white is not to draw attention to themselves - it is not about them, IT is about the music.

In the case of the users of cell phones / smart phones in their multi-media fantasy worlds at places where others are de-emphasizing themselves it is about their EGO, in being more important than others.

Funny how this started way back with proponents of multi-media in Richard Wagner, where the pure music itself was not enough, he needed a story, and dance and theater and art and big sets to go along with it. This is the reason Wagner had his great moments and his bad half hours compared with Mahler's 9th, a consummate symphonic work that goes to the core of human existence, that requires and rewards one's utmost attention. We're in one of history's bad half hours right now.

Jan. 13 2012 10:37 AM
Helen from manhattan

Its not the philharmonic, but I can't remember the last time I've been to a movie theater that hasn't been interrupted by someones cell phone. I was also at a lecture at the Met a few months ago that was interrupted by someone's phone.

Jan. 13 2012 09:39 AM

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