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Dos & Don'ts

October 23, 2003

Never been to a classical performance before? Remember, you're entering a specific culture. And, as with traveling, the wisest thing to do is: wait and observe. Here are tips on basic etiquette:

* Be on time. Tardiness ensures the wrath of fellow concertgoers, and there is usually no late seating even between movements.

* The bells are tolling for you: Stub out the cigarette, finish the drink and find your seat.

* You think your whisper doesn't carry -- it does, especially with the hall's heightened acoustics. Nobody wants play-by-play, especially not Esa-Pekka Salonen, who at a recent rehearsal easily detected the sound of audience members slipping out.

* Clapping or loud emotional outbursts after the first movement? Save it. There's more to come.

* Cellphones should not compete with the orchestra. Ever. Neither should the crackle of candy wrappers. If you need to stifle that nagging cough, unwrap preconcert.

* You may be in tune but you're not Glenn Gould, so keep the humming inside.

* Falling asleep is always bad manners. Snoring is unforgivable.

* Beware of accolade inflation. Not everything deserves a standing ovation.

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