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Cellphones Ring, Are You Listening?

by Olin Chism 11 Nov 2011 12:00 PM

Mendelssohn forgot to write a cellphone part in his Overture to “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” so someone corrected that oversight on Thursday night with an electronic obbligato insertion.


About five minutes into the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s performance of Mendelssohn’s Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream on Thursday night, it became clear that this was going to be a memorable concert, though not in the way that anyone would like.

A cellphone began ringing, loudly and persistently (the possessor had clearly set the ring on maximum volume). Guest conductor Jakub Hrusa paused the performance and waited calmly until the infernal device went silent. Then the orchestra resumed where it had left off.

Cellphone annoyances are all too common at musical events, of course, but rarely do the users achieve their ultimate moment of glory by stopping a performance.

There doesn’t seem to be any legal way to deal with this. Pre-concert pleas to turn off electronic devices — the pleas are just about universal at American venues though European halls have a problem as well — are simply ignored by a certain segment of the audience.

I’ve read somewhere that it’s technologically feasible to electronically block all incoming and outgoing cellphone transmissions from a hall, but that it’s illegal. It shouldn’t be. Why should a couple of thousand people be held hostage to the carelessness or malice of a small group?

By the way, except for the interruption Thursday’s concert in the Meyerson Center went very well. Hrusa, a young Czech, led strong performances of music by his countrymen Smetana (The Moldau) and Janacek (Taras Bulba) and flutist James Galway joined in for his usual impressive display of technique and personality in Mozart’s Flute Concerto No. 2.

The program will be repeated tonight through Sunday afternoon, and — if the audience is lucky — the Mendelssohn will be played without pause.

  • E.N.

    I was there! It seemed to get louder and louder and endless. For a moment I thought the ring came from the orchestra, then I thought to my self “why nobody is stopping it? Then I really panic thinking that it might be coming from my cell phone. So I checked my phone and regained my peace of mind when I noticed that the volume was turned off.  At the end of it all I was just happy that it had not being me the perpetrator of such of hideous crime. By the way it was an amazing performances by the DSO and guests Galloway and Hrusa!

  • How terrible! It really is very disturbing when someone’s very loud cell phone goes off, after everybody has been asked multiple times to turn them off.

    However, I don’t agree that it should be legal to be able to block incoming and outgoing cell phone transmissions. What if someone needed to call 911? Besides the safety concerns, there is also a huge disadvantage with people not being able to share on social media that they are at your concert. A marketing loss!

    Just my $0.02