About Orchestral Music

Is this your first time at a symphony concert?

If this is your first time attending an orchestral concert, don’t worry! We have answers for your questions:

Why are the musicians playing onstage before the concert?

Just as hockey players need to skate and shoot the puck around the ice before a game, so too do our musicians need to warm up their muscles and focus their concentration in the performance space before a concert. Listen in and you may even hear snippets of the music from the upcoming program!

What happens during the concert?

One of the things that’s good to know is that orchestra audiences tend to clap at specific times. At pop and jazz concerts, audiences sometimes clap while the musicians are still playing. But at classical concerts they wait until the end of each piece. Sometimes a piece will have 3 or 4 parts (called movements), which will be listed in the program. In this case, please do not clap between movements but wait until the entire piece is finished to show your appreciation.

  • Just before the concert begins, our concertmaster Hok Kwan will come on stage to tune the orchestra. Please clap to welcome him!
  • After the orchestra tunes, our conductor James Mark (and sometimes a soloist) will enter. Again, please welcome him with your applause!
  • When everyone is on stage, please rise for our national anthem. Afterward, sit back and enjoy the concert!

Concert Etiquette

Much like going to the movies, audience members at an orchestra concert appreciate it when they can focus on the performance. (However, unlike going to the movies, food and drink are not allowed in the concert hall.)

Here are a few ways you can be sure to be respectful of your fellow concert-goers:

  • Please do not talk while the orchestra is playing!
  • We all have to cough sometimes, but if you’re having a coughing fit please go out to the lobby until you feel better.
  • If you’re trying to prevent a coughing fit by unwrapping a throat lozenge (or opening a candy or some gum), please wait for applause so you don’t disturb the listening experience of the people around you.
  • If you have to leave or come into the hall during the concert, please wait for a break between pieces.


orchestra – a group of musicians, ranging anywhere from about 7-70+ people, playing various musical instruments

symphony – a large-scale musical composition written for an orchestra symphony orchestra – a large orchestra of string, woodwind, brass and percussion instruments, led by a conductor and organized to play “symphonic” compositions

conductor – the conductor is the leader of the orchestra, responsible for showing the players the speed and phrasing of the music, as well as when to play

concertmaster – the leader of the first violin section, who also assists the conductor in leading the orchestra


Leave a Reply