It's Time for T-shirts and Jeans for Orchestra Members!

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Ralph
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It's Time for T-shirts and Jeans for Orchestra Members!

Post by Ralph » Wed Aug 02, 2006 5:56 am

From The Guardian:

Tuesday August 1 2006

Traditional ties

By Charlotte Higgins / Back-row blogger 12:32pm

Is it time orchestras updated their dress
code?

Going to the Proms has been my first foray into live classical music for a while. After a bit of a break, it seems weirder than ever to me - a point discussed in this very good column by Justin Davidson - that symphony orchestras wear 19th-century outfits to perform to 21st-century audiences. What are we, the punters, supposed to make of this off-putting fancy-dress parade?

It is perhaps more noticeable than usual at the Proms, when the members of the BBC Symphony Orchestra and some others wear not-even-stylish white dinner jackets through the season. They look, I fear, like upscale waiters.

For the musicians, these heavy clothes can barely be comfortable on searingly hot nights; in any case, it is interesting to note that more and more conductors (who, unlike the rank and file orchestral players, have the power to dress as they please) abandon dinner jacket or tails whenever possible. John Eliot Gardiner, Paul Daniel and Mark Elder spring to mind as refuseniks who favour looser, but still-smart clothes over the hot, constricting wool jackets. There are many others.

Many people might feel that formality and dignity should be preserved in the concert hall. Well, there's a case for that - the thought is that the concert should remain a space for concentration and contemplation outside the run of casual, normal life.

But formality and dignity do not have to go hand in hand with antediluvian dressing. You would have thought that someone would have asked Paul Smith to design their orchestra's kit by now. Or Prada (what a delicious thought).

As it is, time will speed inexorably on and on from the Victorian heyday of the morning suit, leaving the orchestras stranded in time, more and more resembling objects from a museum. Or maybe they should go the whole hog, and bring in compulsory bustles and corsets for the women players. It only makes sense
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Post by Barry » Wed Aug 02, 2006 10:00 am

If I remember correctly, it was reported here that Eschenbach, who wears a Neru jacket rather than a tux, wanted the orchestra members to wear something less formal than tuxedos, but the musicians rejected the idea.
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Post by Corlyss_D » Wed Aug 02, 2006 10:36 am

Jeans and casual shirts and sneaks and summer frocks (for the ladies) are common attire at summer festivals. You can see that often at Wolf Trap. I don't mind seeing it in the pit. However, the formal attire is a uniform, their work clothes, and I don't object to that. If they can't attain the proper mood without it, then by all means, suit up.

What I do object to is people in the audience who try to enforce a dress code on the audience members, especially me. I had a friend who did exactly that, claiming that my wearing jeans and boots to a concert was a sign of disrespect for the musicians and their efforts that she personally would not tolerate. We aren't friends any more.
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Post by Barry » Wed Aug 02, 2006 10:40 am

Corlyss_D wrote: What I do object to is people in the audience who try to enforce a dress code on the audience members, especially me. I had a friend who did exactly that, claiming that my wearing jeans and boots to a concert was a sign of disrespect for the musicians and their efforts that she personally would not tolerate. We aren't friends any more.
I feel the same way. It's important for an orchestral concert to not have a feeling of enforced stuffiness. I have no problem with anyone who wants to make a night of it and wear their nicest clothes. But they shouldn't expect the rest of us to do the same. I usually wear either black jeans or something like docker pants, but never a jacket or tie.
"If this is coffee, please bring me some tea; but if this is tea, please bring me some coffee." - Abraham Lincoln

"Although prepared for martyrdom, I preferred that it be postponed." - Winston Churchill

"Before I refuse to take your questions, I have an opening statement." - Ronald Reagan

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Post by greymouse » Wed Aug 02, 2006 10:47 am

Corlyss wrote:What I do object to is people in the audience who try to enforce a dress code on the audience members, especially me. I had a friend who did exactly that, claiming that my wearing jeans and boots to a concert was a sign of disrespect for the musicians and their efforts that she personally would not tolerate. We aren't friends any more.
Good for you Corlyss. That's just ridiculous! I honestly think a nice pair of jeans are the classiest thing a person can wear. 8) They have a look of nobility. For both men and women. I actually have no problem with the musicians being more casual, as long as they agree.

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Post by Werner » Wed Aug 02, 2006 10:49 am

There are all sorts of ranges, and it's not exactly new. I remember being at the Met some years ago, and the range was from formal to torn tie-dyed jeans.

I don't agree with T-shirts or quite that sort of casualwear for the orchestra, though. The presentation of great music is in a way a celebratory occasion, and the visual aspect is a necessary part.
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Post by MahlerSnob » Wed Aug 02, 2006 11:18 am

I've never seen much problem with it, honestly. There have been calls in the past for orchestras to become more casual in their performance attire, but this isn't easily done as the dress code is typically written into the player's contract. I wasn't happy about having to buy a buisness suit, normal tuxedo, tail jacket (with proper vest and shirt), and white dinner jacket for my performing career, but now that I have them I might as well use them. (The only thing that hasn't paid for itself yet is the tail jacket, which I just got a few months ago.)

Also, white dinner jackets work very well for summer outdoor concerts. They're much lighter than you might think.
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Post by Ralph » Wed Aug 02, 2006 11:40 am

Corlyss_D wrote:Jeans and casual shirts and sneaks and summer frocks (for the ladies) are common attire at summer festivals. You can see that often at Wolf Trap. I don't mind seeing it in the pit. However, the formal attire is a uniform, their work clothes, and I don't object to that. If they can't attain the proper mood without it, then by all means, suit up.

What I do object to is people in the audience who try to enforce a dress code on the audience members, especially me. I had a friend who did exactly that, claiming that my wearing jeans and boots to a concert was a sign of disrespect for the musicians and their efforts that she personally would not tolerate. We aren't friends any more.
*****

That former friend had no idea what your living conditions are like in the desert. That you could could make the trek to a concert is a testament to your dedication to music.

In New York jeans are very common, even at the opera. Jbuck was concerned about going to Mostly Mozart last night in shorts till he saw me - and half the audience similarly attired.
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Post by Corlyss_D » Wed Aug 02, 2006 11:50 am

Ralph wrote:That former friend had no idea what your living conditions are like in the desert. That you could could make the trek to a concert is a testament to your dedication to music.
Until she moved to Maine, we attended concerts in the DC area, many of which I attended in a dress. The instant discussion occurred over a possible concert in Boothbay Harbor, hardly a cultural capital, even in Maine. There was no excuse for the argument at all, since I had agreed to wear a dress because she asked me to. The argument occurred when, after I agreed, she attempted to lecture me about my disrespectful attitude. She should have quit while she was ahead. Now when I go to a concert or opera with someone, I warn them what I plan to wear and tell them if it's a problem they need to let me know. I don't wish to discomfit my companions if what I wear means that much to them. It's never come up with anyone else.
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Post by RebLem » Wed Aug 02, 2006 2:31 pm

Corlyss_D wrote:
Ralph wrote:That former friend had no idea what your living conditions are like in the desert. That you could could make the trek to a concert is a testament to your dedication to music.
Until she moved to Maine, we attended concerts in the DC area, many of which I attended in a dress. The instant discussion occurred over a possible concert in Boothbay Harbor, hardly a cultural capital, even in Maine. There was no excuse for the argument at all, since I had agreed to wear a dress because she asked me to. The argument occurred when, after I agreed, she attempted to lecture me about my disrespectful attitude. She should have quit while she was ahead. Now when I go to a concert or opera with someone, I warn them what I plan to wear and tell them if it's a problem they need to let me know. I don't wish to discomfit my companions if what I wear means that much to them. It's never come up with anyone else.
Was she a member of the Kennebunkport Yacht Club? :P :shock: :P
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Post by davidzalman » Wed Aug 02, 2006 3:03 pm

Corlyss_D wrote:There was no excuse for the argument at all, since I had agreed to wear a dress because she asked me to. The argument occurred when, after I agreed, she attempted to lecture me about my disrespectful attitude.
It sounds to me that you're well rid of that "friend."

Oh, BTW, I think that any audience member that shows up at a classical music concert or opera wearing anything but full-dress duds should be summarily shot, and his (or her) body dumped into whatever sewer hole is nearest the site of (should be) lawful execution. Do you think that's too drastic, or is it merely just too messy and unsanitary?
Last edited by davidzalman on Wed Aug 02, 2006 4:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Cyril Ignatius » Wed Aug 02, 2006 4:00 pm

I suppose somewhat different standards for the orchestra and audience are inevitable. The unraveling of formality is a poweful force in our times and a very mixed blessing. We live in a era where so many are so drunk with disowning the past that it is easy to either allow oneself to leap off the cliff with them, or alternatively, to adopt a mindless reactionary posture.

My own sense is that some level of professional formality in attire is appropriate to a professional orchestra and soloists. Of course, particular outdoors or other informal settings might allow exceptions to this. There are reasons for dressing well, among them, respect for occasion, respect for audience, a sense of decorum, and frankly, just good taste. I guess we can quibble or debate what precisely that means - tuxedos, professional/business attire or whatever.

But when the issue is the attire of audiences - the issue is different. It is important to realize that people are coming from vastly different walks of life and emerging out of radically different schedules and venues, and so it seems a good idea to cast a wide net of acceptable dress and just let them sort it out for themselves.
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Post by Brendan » Wed Aug 02, 2006 6:32 pm

Never much cared for Kennedy's pseudo-punk look and so forth, often equating fashion with marketing rather than artistry. I'd hate to see the "look-at-me" celebrity style of competitive outrageouness and tastelessness take off in orchestras. I want to appreciate the music, not wonder where the second violinst shops.

If the audience wishes to slum it and lower the tone of the occasion (it's an expression of fine art, not a show or rock gig), there's not much one can do except straighten one's tie, check the time on the fob watch (I live in a three-piece during winter) and welcome the darkness and music, where I can shut the rabble out for a moment or two.

Those that enjoy formality and the atmosphere it creates have few refuges from the denimmed masses.

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Post by Corlyss_D » Wed Aug 02, 2006 8:20 pm

RebLem wrote: Was she a member of the Kennebunkport Yacht Club? :P :shock: :P
We never discussed it, but I doubt it.
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Post by Corlyss_D » Wed Aug 02, 2006 8:21 pm

davidzalman wrote:Do you think that's too drastic, or is it merely just too messy and unsanitary?
Takes too long to clean up and would delay the start of the program and the necessary hasty exit to the parking lot just before the last piece on the program.
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Post by anasazi » Wed Aug 02, 2006 11:24 pm

Actually, just about any 'style' of clothing can be manufactured to be comfortable. So is this really about comfort, or about wanting to see the musicians dress like us? Personally, I think some uniform for the players is a good idea. It prevents visual distractions from the music and gives an impression of a uniformity or equality among the players. I guess for the same reason our concert halls don't have DRINK PEPSI signs along the walls - same deal. It's about the music, not personal vanities.

But everyone should be comfortable. Sometimes a concert in Minneapolis requires a three piece suite (and more).
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Post by Corlyss_D » Thu Aug 03, 2006 1:02 am

anasazi wrote: DRINK PEPSI signs along the walls
Shhhhhhhhhhh. Don't give them any ideas.
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Post by Ralph » Thu Aug 03, 2006 9:49 am

Corlyss_D wrote:
Ralph wrote:That former friend had no idea what your living conditions are like in the desert. That you could could make the trek to a concert is a testament to your dedication to music.
Until she moved to Maine, we attended concerts in the DC area, many of which I attended in a dress. The instant discussion occurred over a possible concert in Boothbay Harbor, hardly a cultural capital, even in Maine. There was no excuse for the argument at all, since I had agreed to wear a dress because she asked me to. The argument occurred when, after I agreed, she attempted to lecture me about my disrespectful attitude. She should have quit while she was ahead. Now when I go to a concert or opera with someone, I warn them what I plan to wear and tell them if it's a problem they need to let me know. I don't wish to discomfit my companions if what I wear means that much to them. It's never come up with anyone else.
*****

You have a standing invitation to Lincoln Center or Carnegie Hall with me. Wear jeans or the starched overalls that are considered formal attire at Utah 4-H barn dances. Just come!
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Post by Ralph » Thu Aug 03, 2006 9:50 am

davidzalman wrote:
Corlyss_D wrote:There was no excuse for the argument at all, since I had agreed to wear a dress because she asked me to. The argument occurred when, after I agreed, she attempted to lecture me about my disrespectful attitude.
It sounds to me that you're well rid of that "friend."

Oh, BTW, I think that any audience member that shows up at a classical music concert or opera wearing anything but full-dress duds should be summarily shot, and his (or her) body dumped into whatever sewer hole is nearest the site of (should be) lawful execution. Do you think that's too drastic, or is it merely just too messy and unsanitary?
*****

Far worse, friend. It's a recipe for quick and total economic ruin for the concert hall or opera house. :)
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Post by Ralph » Thu Aug 03, 2006 9:51 am

anasazi wrote:Actually, just about any 'style' of clothing can be manufactured to be comfortable. So is this really about comfort, or about wanting to see the musicians dress like us? Personally, I think some uniform for the players is a good idea. It prevents visual distractions from the music and gives an impression of a uniformity or equality among the players. I guess for the same reason our concert halls don't have DRINK PEPSI signs along the walls - same deal. It's about the music, not personal vanities.

But everyone should be comfortable. Sometimes a concert in Minneapolis requires a three piece suite (and more).
*****

Those signs would be obnoxious but NOT placards proclaiming the glory of Diet Coke!
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Post by davidzalman » Thu Aug 03, 2006 10:46 am

Ralph wrote:
davidzalman wrote:
Corlyss_D wrote:There was no excuse for the argument at all, since I had agreed to wear a dress because she asked me to. The argument occurred when, after I agreed, she attempted to lecture me about my disrespectful attitude.
It sounds to me that you're well rid of that "friend."

Oh, BTW, I think that any audience member that shows up at a classical music concert or opera wearing anything but full-dress duds should be summarily shot, and his (or her) body dumped into whatever sewer hole is nearest the site of (should be) lawful execution. Do you think that's too drastic, or is it merely just too messy and unsanitary?
Far worse, friend. It's a recipe for quick and total economic ruin for the concert hall or opera house. :)
But ... but ... how else, then, can we effectively keep out the riffraff? I mean, proper standards must be maintained no matter what the cost!

Alban Berg

Post by Alban Berg » Thu Aug 03, 2006 11:29 am

anasazi wrote:Actually, just about any 'style' of clothing can be manufactured to be comfortable. So is this really about comfort, or about wanting to see the musicians dress like us? Personally, I think some uniform for the players is a good idea. It prevents visual distractions from the music and gives an impression of a uniformity or equality among the players. I guess for the same reason our concert halls don't have DRINK PEPSI signs along the walls - same deal. It's about the music, not personal vanities.

But everyone should be comfortable. Sometimes a concert in Minneapolis requires a three piece suite (and more).

Once the house lights go down, what the audience is wearing scarcely matters. I dress neatly but casually and I have not worn a tie to a concert or opera since the time in Vienna some ten years ago when a friend sternly advised me that a noose of some sort or other around my neck was de rigueur; I steadfastly kept the damn thing on despite the 25% of men in the audience who were comfortably bare-necked. But nota bene to Ralph: I do draw the line at speedos in the concert hall.

As for the musicians, they are the focus of attention and something more formal is appropriate, though I don't see the need for tuxedoes in the hot months. But it has been refreshing to see contemporary music groups in t-shirts, jeans, and other casual attire; somehow the irreverence in dress comports well with the irreverence of the music.

Or perhaps like actors and dancers, the musicians should be costumed in a way befitting the music played. Uniformly, of course. For an all-French program, the orchestra can wear berets. For a Russian program, they can wear thick fur coats and bring out individual bottles of vodka rather than water. If the Scotch Symphony is on the program, put the strings, winds, and percussion in kilts of various clans (and don't forget the bagpipes). If it's the Tchaikovsky ballets, put the women in tutus and the men in dance belts and tights.

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Post by Ralph » Thu Aug 03, 2006 7:56 pm

Note to Alban:

I got the hint. WIll not wear Speedos again when we attend a concert together.
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Post by Jennifer Grucza » Sat Aug 05, 2006 12:11 am

Women already get a fair bit of flexibility in what to wear - it just has to be black and long, basically.

I think it would be fine to ditch the tuxedos for men in favor of all-black like the women.

It would probably be distracting for some 70-odd musicians to be wearing completely different clothes, whether they be formal or informal.

Plus when you have a soloist playing a concerto, it's nice to have them contrast with the uniform look of the orchestra members behind them. Though I guess that's only really relevant with women soloists, as the men usually just wear a tux.

I think informality would work a lot better in chamber music, especially if you were playing twentieth-century music.
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Post by Gary » Sat Aug 05, 2006 1:55 am

Alban Berg wrote:If it's the Tchaikovsky ballets, put the women in tutus and the men in dance belts and tights.
I'm afraid that's too much even for ballet fans like me. :)
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