Concert Etiquette of the Greats

I’ve been interviewing my good friend Bill Duckworth for an eventual biography or something. He told me about meeting Virgil Thomson in the late ’70s. David Stock was giving one of his new music concerts in Pittsburgh, and Duckworth and Thomson were the featured composers. After the pre-concert dinner, Thomson put his arm around Bill and said, “Young man, don’t take it personally when you look at me during your performance tonight and see that I’ve fallen asleep. If you look at me during my piece, I will be asleep then too.” Bill says, “And I looked at him, and he was.”

During Thomson’s Herald Tribune days, a reader once wrote to him to protest a positive review he had given to an inferior soprano. Thomson wrote back, “I sleep very lightly at the opera, and if anything had gone amiss on stage, I would have awoken instantly.”


  1. Sara Heimbecker says

    Great anecdotes. I am so sorry that I will not be in Greeley to host both of you this coming year. Perhaps we’ll have to recreate the festival in Ithaca.