Frequently Asked Questions


Have you never been to a symphony? Not sure what to expect? Here are some common frequently asked questions. If you have a question and it's not on this list contact

Question: What do I wear to the symphony?
Answer: Whatever you are comfortable in. If the concert is part of your 'night out on the town', by all means, dress up. People dress in all manner of clothes, so you will fit in no matter what.

Question: Aren't classical music concerts kind of stuffy and snobby?
Answer: People from all walks of life attend classical music concerts.  They come to the concert for the amazing 'live' experience where there is interaction between the performers and the audience. The musicians are presenting their music as if they are laying out a banquet for you.  They hope that you will enjoy the 'sustenance' and if you do, that you will show your appreciation by applauding.

Audience members come to the concert in several different ways - some have listened to the music ahead of time and have virtually memorized it. The music is then familiar to them and they might hum along with the performance (not too loudly we hope). They know about the composer, his life and how the music expresses both him as an individual and the society in which he/she lived.

Some have heard the music a few times before and just look forward to enjoying the sensual experiencing of moods, feelings, visual pictures, triggered memories and emotional changes, inspiration.

Some attend without knowing anything about the music and can be surprised and delighted with the new experience.

Some find the music soothing and calming and fall asleep. We hope they don't snore.

Nearly every piece of music can be found on the internet (YouTube is an excellent resource) and enjoyed in any setting - in your car, in the kitchen, in the bath.

If you want to learn more about the music before the concert, you can attend the pre-concert chat which a 30 minute informal discussion, one hour before the concert starts. This is available to anyone and everyone. You can also attend the dress rehearsal on the afternoon of the performance where you will hear the orchestra putting on the final touches to perfect the music. This is the time when the conductor will stop and start the orchestra, giving instructions and advice on how to improve the presentation of the music. It is a good time to learn how an orchestra actually functions, if this of interest to you. The dress rehearsals are generally held at 2:00 on the afternoon of the opening night. They are held in Kelowna on Oct 19, Nov 16, Jan 18, Mar 1, and in Vernon on April 18. The rehearsal lasts for 2 ½ hours with an intermission at around 3:15. You are welcome to stay for the whole event or attend the first or second half.

You can also go onto our website pages for each concert where you will find program notes - these give a brief background to the composer and the music.

Question: How can one contact an OSO musician for things like lessons, weddings, etc?
Send an email through to the office and your request will be forwarded to the appropriate person / institution.

Question: Where can one find the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra in the social media world?
Answer: We are pleased to be active on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and YouTube direct links to our pages so you can follow us can be found above at the top right corner of this website

Question: Where should I sit?
Answer:  Sitting at the middle or back of the hall, you get the bigger picture and the blended sound of the orchestra.  If there is a soloist performing, you may want to sit closer to the front in order to enjoy watching their technical prowess!  Many people like to have a close up view of a pianist so that they can watch the dazzling hand movements. A front row seat will put you right next to the musicians and conductor if you want to watch facial expressions and conducting techniques.  As a caution, a front row seat does not always give the best sound experience as you will be hearing specific instruments, instead of the overall sound of the orchestra. Your visual experience will be limited to the front row of musicians.

Question: What 'routines' or 'rituals' should I know?
Answer: The leader of the musicians on the stage is called the Concertmaster and he is the violinist sitting at the front on the left hand side of the conductor. He stays backstage until the orchestra is seated and then comes onstage to tune the orchestra.  His entrance is acknowledged by the audience with their applause (note: appreciation that he has finally arrived).  He then tunes the orchestra, during which time the audience becomes quiet. He then takes his seat and waits for the arrival of the conductor.

The conductor comes on stage and the musicians stand to honour the conductor's arrival and to share in the applause from the audience. Your applause is acknowledged and appreciated by the conductor who will bow to you in thanks.  The conductor and concertmaster shake hands, the orchestra take their seats and the performance is about to start.   

If you are not sure when to clap, check your program.  A symphony often has several movements (short pieces of music, each with its own style and mood).  The tradition is to wait until the entire symphony has been performed before applauding, and not in between movements.   If in doubt, wait it out.  Other audience members will be your leaders in this.

There is usually an intermission when you can stand up, stretch, walk, purchase some refreshments in the lobby, visit your friends or meet some of the musicians.

At the end of the concert, if the audience REALLY REALLY loved the performance, they will give a standing ovation.  That requires the conductor to return to the front of the stage and thank the audience, by bowing, for their enthusiastic expression of approval.

Rosemary Thomson is usually in the lobby to meet any audience members that would like to meet her.  Please take the opportunity to say hello and tell her what you thought of the concert.  We always appreciate your comments and feedback.

Question: I notice that you have open dress rehearsals what can I expect (and what is expected of me?)
Answer: Arrive just before 2:00 and be prepared to see how Rosemary puts the music together - sometimes they will play through something completely - other times, she will stop and practice some sections over and over. 

Rosemary starts the afternoon by briefly introducing the pieces and what she wants to accomplish. If you want to hear some of her comments to the orchestra, you will have to sit closer.  Otherwise, you will get the full orchestra sound by sitting about half way back.  No dress code, and a suggested donation of $10 per person is appreciated.

Interval is at 3:00 - 3:15 - and the rehearsal continues until about 4:30.


Question:  What experience will I have when I go to a classical music concert?
Answer: No recording can compare to the experience of a live concert. Your senses are fully engaged
- the visual impact of watching the musicians and the conductor, the way they move, their practices and skills and sometimes frantic activity and how that changes with the different kinds of music; the aural impact of loud, soft, fast, slow, the many different instruments and their unique sounds and then, how they blend together.
Ask yourself about the emotional impact:
- what effect does it have on how I am feeling
- is it uplifting, exciting, soothing, calming
- am I inspired with different thoughts, with new ideas
- do I feel different than when I arrived
- did I have any memories stirred up
- did the music conjure a picture in my mind
-  did the music affect me
take note:  If you do not enjoy the music or feel bored, you have also been affected!  Just remember which composer did that for you...