weather icon Clear

When to applaud at Philharmonic? Whenever you want, conductor says

I attended my first symphony when I was in college, and at the end of the first movement, my friend and I applauded enthusiastically. Turns out, we were among the few in the audience who were clueless that you weren’t supposed to applaud after movements.

I never did that again.

But when I attended my first Las Vegas Philharmonic concert Feb. 4, I was surprised that so many applauded after movements, the separate parts of a musical composition. This seemed like a serious music crowd. Didn’t they know better?

I decided to check in with Donato Cabrera, the Phil’s popular and respected conductor and music director, who has worked all over the world.

After all, it must annoy him.


“My advice is to clap whenever you are feeling the need to do so,” he said. “Going to a symphony concert has far too many rules, or perceived rules, that don’t need to be there.”

He explained to me that applause between movements was even expected in the days of Beethoven, Brahms and Tchaikovsky. Something else I didn’t know.

The rule of no applause during movements began in Germany about 1900, and even today the decision to applaud between movements differs from country to country and in the United States from region to region.

Traditionalists still don’t applaud then. But others do. And Cabrera, who began with the Phil in 2014 and whose contract was recently extended three years, is happy they do.

His advice to the traditionalists who sit silently between movements?

“My biggest piece of advice is if someone around you is clapping, rather than show your disapproval of them, at the next convenient moment, welcome them to the concert.”

He doesn’t approve of those who try to shush the clappers.

I’ve always counted the movements so I never embarrassed myself again, but Cabrera suggested watching his hand with the baton. “When I put my hand down, that’s the time to show your appreciation.”

Sometimes a piece of music, no matter how moving, practically demands silence. Like Verdi’s “Requiem.”


“Some pieces of music that end so tragically and softly, it’s wonderful for there to be a moment to reflect in silence. But there aren’t that many pieces of music that require that gravitas, that is the exception, not the rule,” he said, citing Verdi’s “Requiem.”

During the “Cabrera Conducts Dvořák” concert at The Smith Center for the Performing Arts, he waited for the applause to stop and then moved quickly between the next movements, not allowing the audience time to applaud.

Not every conductor is as welcoming of applause midway as Cabrera.

“Some traditionalists aren’t happy with the fact I encourage audiences to clap,” he said. “There is no norm. I’m fine with either.”

I’ll probably stick with what I’ve done for decades and wait for the end. But I’ll no longer think less of the person who is so delighted, they applaud between movements. I’ve never glared at anyone who did that, because I can remember my first time — and my mortification.

Jane Ann Morrison’s column runs Thursdays. Leave messages for her at 702-383-0275 or email jmorrison@reviewjournal.com. Follow @janeannmorrison on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Cab riders experiencing no-shows urged to file complaints

If a cabbie doesn’t show, you must file a complaint. Otherwise, the authority will keep on insisting it’s just not a problem, according to columnist Jane Ann Morrison. And that’s not what she’s hearing.

Are no-shows by Las Vegas taxis usual or abnormal?

In May former Las Vegas planning commissioner Byron Goynes waited an hour for a Western Cab taxi that never came. Is this routine or an anomaly?

Columnist shares dad’s story of long-term cancer survival

Columnist Jane Ann Morrison shares her 88-year-old father’s story as a longtime cancer survivor to remind people that a cancer diagnosis doesn’t necessarily mean a hopeless end.

Las Vegas author pens a thriller, ‘Red Agenda’

If you’re looking for a good summer read, Jane Ann Morrison has a real page turner to recommend — “Red Agenda,” written by Cameron Poe, the pseudonym for Las Vegan Barry Cameron Lindemann.

Las Vegas woman fights to stop female genital mutilation

Selifa Boukari McGreevy wants to bring attention to the horrors of female genital mutilation by sharing her own experience. But it’s not easy to hear. And it won’t be easy to read.

Biases of federal court’s Judge Jones waste public funds

Nevada’s most overturned federal judge — Robert Clive Jones — was overturned yet again in one case and removed from another because of his bias against the U.S. government.

Don’t forget Jay Sarno’s contributions to Las Vegas

Steve Wynn isn’t the only casino developer who deserves credit for changing the face of Las Vegas. Jay Sarno, who opened Caesars Palace in 1966 and Circus Circus in 1968, more than earned his share of credit too.

John Momot’s death prompts memories of 1979 car fire

Las Vegas attorney John Momot Jr. was as fine a man as people said after he died April 12 at age 74. I liked and admired his legal abilities as a criminal defense attorney. But there was a mysterious moment in Momot’s past.