The MC is speaking, or the quartet or soloist is singing, and behind them someone in the choir is fidgeting or fixing hair or scratching. Out there in the audience, who are we all looking at? Yep.
Audience eyes are hungry for action, for something that moves, or something that’s different. Audience brains crave stimulation. So if even one choir member is scowling as they listen to the MC or quartet, audience eyes will pick up on it – and then start making up stories for themselves about why this person might be scowling.
The truth is that our faces in repose, as we listen intently, don’t necessarily present us at our best. Apparently mine tends to look annoyed. (Which probably isn’t an entirely inaccurate reading. Bruce Banner and I have much in common) So I’ve had to train my background, listening face to look reasonably interested or faintly charmed. Don’t want to be grinning too broadly and upstage the performers with a face that’s doing too much.
Here are some other activities that will also take eyes away from the performers who should be getting all of the audience’s attention.
Scratching – more prevalent that you’d expect
Rubbing face – This one will read like this to the audience: “This is excruciating!”
Looking up at the ceiling
Gazing into the wings
And of course – chatting to the person beside you
One more etiquette thing. When the soloist or small group finishes singing, the onstage choir – as one of the concert’s performers – should not applaud. It just looks like “Yay us!!!” and tends to make the audience feel excluded. However, grinning and wildly enthusiastic faces are welcome at this point.