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Concert Program Style Guide

This concert program style guide presents the rules and supporting reasoning for the layout of printed concert programs. The online programs in the archive follow a similar style: The main differences are to accommodate the varying shapes and sizes of display devices, including smart phones, tablets, and desktop PCs.

An overarching rule is: minimize redundancy and apply style consistently.


Every work or set of works scheduled to be performed will have a “Piece” name. This name may be generic, e.g., “Selection”, but a specific name is preferred, where available. The piece name is always capitalized.

What is being played may be a subset of a larger work, where the composer intended the larger work to be performed in its entirety. For example:

In the above cases the larger work is always the “piece” being performed and is listed first. Style guides of some institutions suggest listing arias differently, where the aria is listed first followed by the word “from” and then the name of the opera. This author finds this style to be inconsistent.

Key signature

The key is presented in mixed case as follows:

in B♭ major

The word “in” is always present. The note is always upper case. The “-flat” or “-sharp” is always presented as ♭ or ♯. The “major” and “minor” are always lower case. Some institutional style guides specify “major” keys to be capitalized and “minor” keys to be all lower case, for example:

in a minor

in C Major

This author finds echoing major/minor in the case of the key to be redundant and it results in an inconsistent style.

Opus numbers

Opus” is always abbreviated “Op.” and is preceded by a comma and followed by a space and the opus number.

If the composer wrote multiple works under one opus number, the work number is specified after the opus number, separated by a comma and number abbreviated “No.” followed by a space. For example:

String Quartet in A minor, Op. 51, No. 2

Numbering by others, if present, will be at the end, preceded by a comma.

Catalogue numbers

Where Opus numbers are absent or inconsistently used by the composer, musicologists have sometimes developed various catalogue number schemes. If those schemes are widely used, the catalogue number will be present in the piece name, preceded by a comma and a space. For example, Joseph Haydn used opus numbers inconsistently, so only the Hoboken catalogue numbers are used. Out of the hundreds of catalogues, the following catalogues are recognized:

Example CatalogueComposer
H. 484.1 Helm, E. EugeneBach, Carl Philipp Emanuel
BWV 1043 Bach-Werke-VerzeichnisBach, J. S.
H. 67 Hindmarsh, PaulBridge, Frank
L. 86a Lesure, François (1977)Debussy, Claude
CD 87a Lesure, François (2001)Debussy, Claude
B. 178 Burghauser, JarmilDvořák, Antonín
HWV 56 Händel-Werke-VerzeichnisHandel, George Frideric
Hob. VIIb:1Hoboken, Anthony vanHaydn, Joseph
K. 292/196cKöchel, Ludwig vonMozart, W. A.
FP 33a Schmidt, Carl B.Poulenc, Francis
Z. 626 Zimmerman, Franklin B.Purcell, Henry
TN ii/30 Threlfall & NorrisRachmaninoff, Sergei
M. 35 Marnat, MarcelRavel, Maurice
D. 810 Deutsch, Otto ErichSchubert, Franz
TH 111 Poznanasky & LangstonTchaikovsky, Pyotr Ilyich
IRV 38 unidentifiedVaughan Williams, Ralph
W. 246 Wright, SimonVilla-Lobos, Heitor
RV 531 Ryom-VerzeichnisVivaldi, Antonio

The catalogues are always abbreviated as shown above and the abbreviation is always followed by a space and then the catalogue number.

Köchel numbers (Mozart)

These are abbreviated as follows:

String Quartet No. 14 in G major, K. 387

Where K1 and K6 differ, the two numbers will be separated by a slash:

Sonata in B♭ major, K. 292/196c

Lesure numbers (Debussy)

The Lesure catalogue was originally published in 1977. This catalogue commonly abbreviated “L.” followed by the catalogue number. A revised catalogue was published in 2001 and is abbreviated “CD”.

Composer name

The spelling of the name of the composer generally follows that which the composer used in publication. For example, “Dohnányi Ernö” (surname appears before given name in Hungarian) mostly published using the German form of his name “Ernst von Dohnányi”.

Movement formatting

Movements are generally preceded by upper case roman numerals, a period, and a space.

Movement forms are followed by a period and a space, but only if that form is not the final item. If there are multiple forms, each is followed by a period and space, except as noted above, e.g., for Arenksy's Op. 51, “Finale. Fuga.” followed by any tempo markings.

If a movement has multiple tempo markings, they are separated by a space, an m-dash, and another space.

Operas, ballets, musicals, film scores, and arias

Operas, ballets, musicals, and film scores are always italicized. Individual aria names are surrounded by full quotes if the aria name is simply a section of quoted libretto.

Alphabetizing composer and artist names

Where the name of the composer or artist is a group or someone who goes by a name that does not include a surname, the name is treated as a single word with nonbreaking spaces and alphabetized as such.

Where an artist or composer name includes multiple surnames, whether the name is alphabetized using the first surname or the second surname is up to the composer, artist, or convention of their country. For example the “double-barrel” surname of Ralph Vaughan Williams is always sorted as “Vaughan Williams, Ralph” following the British convention.


All concert programs start with a date line in the following format:

Wednesday, August 29, 2018 at 7:30 p.m.

The day of week is always spelled out. The month is always spelled out. The date is always separated from the time with “at”. The time is in North American 12-hour time followed by a space and “a.m.” or “p.m.”.


The venue is always mixed case. For example:

St. John the Divine Cathedral

There is a solid line below the venue and the logo is right justified. The venue text may be shortened by space constraints.