Established with the aim of promoting classical music within an informal setting, the Bristol Proms invites audiences to respond to performances however they like without being restricted by usual concert hall conventions.
However, due to last year’s incident in which a concertgoer attempted to crowd surf during a performance of Handel’s Messiah, Morris has had to declare an intolerance to crowd surfing. When Dr David Glowacki attempted the stunt, he was removed from the audience by two disconcerted concertgoers with Morris admitting that the visiting academic ‘got very over-excited.’
The incident has raised questions about informalising classical concerts; not least how realistic Mr Morris’s attempts to create a concert environment with almost no rules are and how willing classical music audiences are to accept drastic changes to an already well-established etiquette.
‘The audience should be able to react spontaneously in response to what they feel in relation to the music,’ explains Morris. ‘The last thing we want to do is in any way inhibit anyone because that is what live performance is all about.’
He continued: ‘The only caveat I would add is that it really is about the music and maybe in some ways [Dr Glowacki’s] reaction wasn’t about the music but about testing how far he could push his behaviour based on the relaxed ethos.’
In response to the situation, Glowacki has said, ‘Classical music, trying to seem cool and less stuffy, reeks of some sort of fossilised art form undergoing a midlife crisis.’
‘Witness what happened to me when I started cheering with a 30-strong chorus’ he continued. ‘I get physically assaulted, knocked down to the floor and forcibly dragged out by two classical vigilantes … You’re free to behave as you like, and it’s comforting to think that you have that freedom, but it’s only available to you so long as you behave correctly.’
This year audience reactions will be observed closely. While a no tolerance policy on crowd surfing has been established, Morris insists that the instructions to ‘clap or whoop’ and ‘no shushing other people’ will remain.