Recently, my daughter’s high school choir and orchestra put on a concert. It was a lovely event with many talented performers. The audience was also fantastic; holding applause until the conductor indicated movements were finished, and no talking or cell phones going off.
There was one thing that left me wondering what the proper etiquette was, though. The first and second pieces the choir sang had the performers spread out through the entire auditorium, in the aisles and along the sides. Their second piece was “The Star-Spangled Banner”. Ordinarily, one would stand for this, but since the choir were standing throughout the house, if the entire audience stood no one would have been able to see any performers not directly in front of them. Several people in the back of the house did stand, but the rest of us remained seated.
There was no flag displayed in the auditorium, so I’m not sure if it’s covered by the Flag Code or not. I don’t have particularly strong feelings about the National Anthem, but I am curious whether it’s polite to remain seated in a situation like that. Is it more impolite to remain seated than to block the view of anyone not taller than oneself? 1031-13
An interesting question! There is not only US flag and national anthem etiquette but how to respond to hearing the national anthem is a matter of US Legal Code. According to 36 USC § 301 – National anthem…
(a) Designation.— The composition consisting of the words and music known as the Star-Spangled Banner is the national anthem.
(b) Conducting during playing. — During a rendition of the national anthem—
(1) when the flag is displayed—
(A) individuals in uniform should give the military salute at the first note of the anthem and maintain that position until the last note;
(B) members of the Armed Forces and veterans who are present but not in uniform may render the military salute in the manner provided for individuals in uniform; and
(C) all other persons present should face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart, and men not in uniform, if applicable, should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart; and
(2) when the flag is not displayed, all present should face toward the music and act in the same manner they would if the flag were displayed.
It seems to me that the error in etiquette lies with the orchestra/choir director who did not research national anthem etiquette and protocol beforehand and choreographed it in such a way as to make it quite awkward for individuals to choose to stand during the playing and singing of the anthem as their conscience dictated. People were placed in an awkward choice of either obstructing the performance or honoring a commitment to respect the national anthem. This was a particularly difficult choice to put on veterans and military people in attendance as they are honor bound to behave in a prescribed manner upon hearing the playing of the national anthem. Had this performance occurred at a military base, one would presume that the entire audience would have stood up at attention at the first notes of the anthem thus making it quite obvious to the performers and director that perhaps performing it in this manner was not the best way.
Bottom line: People have the hard fought freedom to choose to not stand during the anthem but there should be no barriers, physical or socially, to people choosing to stand.