Definition and background:
A group of people employed in a theatre or opera house to stimulate applause and other expressions on the part of the audience. Typically, they are employed by management or individual performers to ensure a positive audience response to a performance, but occasionally are employed by those hostile to a performance to ensure a negative audience response. members of the audience, usually in an opera house, who are hired by a performer to show enthusiasm by clapping and calling for encores.
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Wikipedia - Glossary of Musical Terminology
Virginia Tech Multimedia Music Dictionary
ORB -- Medieval Music Glossary