Front-Row Ringtone Halts New York Philharmonic Performance

It's an audience member's worst nightmare: an iPhone rang out during the final, touching measures of a piece, causing the conductor to stop the performance.

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It was the ring heard ‘round the world—or at least Lincoln Center.

Conductor Alan Gilbert was starting to close out the “soft and spiritual” last measures of Mahler’s Symphony No. 9 at the New York Philharmonic when he was interrupted by the telltale “marimba” ring of an iPhone coming from the front row. It rang. And rang. Gilbert halted the performance. And the phone rang some more. Finally, it was silenced, and the show resumed to cheers from the crowd.

The New York Times has the full account of the tense minutes last Tuesday night, and also spoke with the owner of the phone himself. A 20-year subscriber to the Philharmonic, the man (who asked to remain anonymous, justifiably) said he’d been unable to sleep for two days. “You can imagine how devastating it is to know you had a hand in that,” he told the Times. “It’s horrible, horrible.”

The man (aged between 60 and 70) says he’d just switched from a Blackberry to an iPhone the day before, and had not been aware that an alarm was set and that it would go off even in silent mode. After getting a call from the Philharmonic (who is referring to the man as Patron X), he asked to speak to Gilbert to apologize. The two spoke on the phone and Gilbert accepted his apology. After all, we’re guessing the ringtone will be haunting Patron X for some time, and that’s more than punishment enough.

Remember, turning your phone off (not just silencing it) for two hours doesn’t mean the world will cease to exist. Your fellow audience members will thank you, too.

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