That PREGNANT PAUSE startled the 4 year-old girl sitting in front of our row. She straightened up in her seat and said, "WHAT?" very loudly. Then the band continued playing to the finish. That's what every conductor dreads --- someone ruining the effect of the PREGNANT PAUSE.
A friend tells a comical story that happened during a Community Choir's Messiah Sing-Along one Christmas. Two older women in the audience got a little tired of the music and decided to swap pie-making recipes. Probably the most famous of all PREGNANT PAUSES happens near the end of Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus." Apparently, the old ladies couldn't hear each other as the climax of the music got closer and louder. And just as the music stopped suddenly for the Grand Pause, one of the ladies yelled out to her friend,"I make mine with lard!"
Yes, the PREGNANT PAUSE can be effective, mostly when the audience is paying attention. It can also have disastrous consequences. Just as with a pregnancy --- the mother knows the baby will be born, but she doesn't exactly know when it will happen --- the PREGNANT PAUSE is supposed to heighten the expectation of the finish. But sometimes the surprise is on the conductor!