BBC Philharmonic invites audiences to keep their mobile phones on in the 2018-19 season

We’ve all been there: how long have I got before the concert starts before I need to turn my mobile phone off? It seems like there is always one last email to check, or text demands, or a friend running late to meet us. In a vain attempt to hide the offending article from other concertgoers, we all hunch over our phones like monsters, surreptitiously tapping away furiously – until we quickly realise that the glow seems to immediately ignite anger in fellow audience members. Soon mass hatred is burning into your neck and irritated fingers are prodding your shoulders.

At a concert in Malta recently, members of the audience seemed intent on bullying my fellow concertgoer (a 20-something organiser with an errant artist), who was quickly finishing off a few items on her phone before the concert began. Listening to her being berated was very unsettling, and it demonstrated just how hostile fellow (and frequently older) audience members can be.

So, it’ll be interesting to see how Bach to the Future will work out for the BBC Philharmonic, who have announced they are to allow audience members to keep mobile phones switched on for its ‘Philharmonic Lab’ concerts at The Bridgewater Hall in Manchester next season. The Philharmonic Lab concerts, where the new technology will be used, will include three world premieres as well as core classical repertoire.

The lift on mobile phone usage is not so audience members can login to dating apps and social media accounts, but so that they can access ‘live’ programme notes on their mobile phones, synchronised to the music being performed.

To make it possible, BBC Philharmonic, which is based at MediaCityUK in Salford, has been working closely with the BBC’s digital teams on the new ‘BBC Philharmonic Lab’ technology.

Simon Webb, BBC Philharmonic general manager, said: “With new music, new technology and new audiences, the launch of Philharmonic Lab demonstrates our commitment to combining the familiar with the new and the neglected, both with the music we perform and the way in which it is presented. In a world dominated by technology, we are harnessing the power of the new to bring great orchestral music to as wide an audience as possible.”

So how will BBC Phil prevent fights between users and nonusers? Concertgoers using the new technology during Philharmonic Lab concerts will be seated in specific areas to avoid making other audience members very, very angry. The concert notes will use a special programme applied on the night by an IT specialist in the auditorium.

But will these tech savvy bods be reading the notes or replying to the family WhatsApp group instead?

And will this technology lead to a dating app that hooks you up with a single concertgoer at the bar in the interval, or after the show? – You and I both know it will. And if we thought it, then it most probably already exists. I’m thinking of the chat up lines on this classical music concertgoing dating app already,

Will you B sharp to my G-flat major SOH?

You treble clef I will.