Sunday, February 20, 2011

A round of applause

At a concert last night I was reminded of a bizarre cultural phenomenon in Israel.

Whenever I go to the theatre, opera, or concerts in Israel, the performance inevitably ends and the audience naturally breaks into a round of applause to show their appreciation. The applause is chaotic, like I'm used to in Australia, Canada, Japan, England, and other places I've been to in the world.

Then after a few seconds, a strange thing happens. Everyone starts clapping in unison, like they're clapping along to music. Now what I'm used to hearing in a packed theatre is of tumultuous, thunderous, chaotic applause. But all I hear is clapping in unison, like people clapping to a marching band of music piece. And I can't resist it and I clap along. I can't escape it. I can't understand it. I want to clap differently, to create the sound I'm used to. But I can't, I'm trapped, and even if I clap totally off the beat to everyone else, I'm just one person in a sea of hundreds.

This really frustrates me, I feel like I'm not showing how I really feel about the music, and that the audience isn't showing its appreciation as it should do. Instead they seem to be clapping along together like it's a game, and not like they've just experienced some world-class culture.

Have you ever experienced this bizarre clapping behaviour before? How do you feel about it? Is it a purely Israeli thing??

The concert I saw last night was with Richard Galliano, a musician from France who is said to be the best accordionist in the world, playing with the Netanya Kibbutz Orchestra. It was a fantastic performance, and they gave four encores (despite the fact that the audience kept getting up to leave the theatre even though the orchestra remained seated! And they did this terrible clapping thing! Poor Mr Galliano).

The program from last night's performance at the Tel Aviv Museum

I found another blog post from a few years ago that discusses the strange Israeli behaviour or synchronous clapping:  The Muqata: Synchronous Clapping