I went to a couple of concerts at the Lammermuir Festival – by the excellent Quatuor Mosaiques – over the days since the Queen’s death. Each concert started with a minute’s silence in honour of The Queen.
At the end of the minute, the players arrived quietly on stage and the concert began without the usual tuning.
The audience was probably in the mood to listen anyway, but I felt that the minute’s silence had deepened the sense of focus. It made me wonder whether the custom of beginning a concert with a minute’s silence (not in honour of anyone particular, just to recognise the musical occasion) would be a good thing to adopt more generally.
Back in the 1980s my group Domus used to do children’s concerts in our portable geodesic dome. We tried various formats, and for a while we got the children to do ‘listening practice’. We all stayed quiet for a minute or two and then shared what we had heard during the quietness. It was never silent, of course. As we were in a glorified tent there were always noises outside, from birds singing and traffic noises to funny snippets of talk from passers-by who didn’t know we were listening. Some children had even noticed the sound of their own breathing.
Eventually we dropped ‘listening practice’ because it felt a bit too much like a lesson. But we always felt that after listening practice the young audience was in a better frame of mind to settle down and listen to us playing. It was probably good for us too. The exercise focused everyone’s minds on the possibility of paying attention, a skill which can enhance any aspect of life.