Sunday, January 15, 2006

And now - a classical music night club

Last week some 200 dressed-down music-lovers crowded into the council chamber of Shoreditch Town Hall for the first in a series of monthly evenings ironically entitled This Isn't For You, a brave attempt to create a classical music nightclub. The average age was 30-ish, the atmosphere relaxed and matey, the wine decidedly ropey, but the music pretty good.

Between the DJ's attempts to adjust the sound system to wildly different demands, eight promising young professionals played a dozen pieces from Bach to Kurtag, Purcell to Webern, Britten to Steve Reich. Led by the gifted violinist Alina Ibragimova, they sizzled through Bach's E major violin concerto unruffled by applause between the first and second movements. It was that kind of evening.

If young would-be concertgoers are put off by the po-faced, shushing audience members as much as the performers' white ties and tails, this could well be the beginning of an answer. At £15 a head for two-and-a-half-hours of music, most enthusiasts seemed to feel they'd had good value for money. Reich's Clapping Music and Music for Pieces of Wood, performed with the requisite expertise, were inspired pieces of programming, eliciting wild applause, whoops and whistles as they showed that even contemporary music can be fun when it chooses.

Cellist Bartholomew LaFollette manfully braved the Prelude from Bach's first suite and the fiendish Ciaccona from Britten's second, suitably blending the familiar with the less so. Then soprano Gweneth-Ann Jeffers emerged from the crowd to shake the rafters with 'When I Am Laid' from Purcell's Dido and Aeneas, letting musical novices in on the thrill of a powerful voice in a small space, if at the price of some poignancy. But few cared. They could even chat to the musicians. The evening was something of a triumph for its promoter, Matt Fretton, whose future such gigs are posted online here.

From today's Observer - is this the way to win new audiences for classical music? - discuss.

Headlines are everything in this game. I was going to headline this article Salieri Night Fever, but sadly had to conclude that it would terminally confuse the search engines.

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John Fowler Holiday
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If you enjoyed this post take An Overgrown Path to Rhythm Is It! - the new Fantasia?

2 comments:

Colin Hartnett said...

I've had this idea for a few years. New audiences, "young people", whatever you want to say... part of the reason a lot of people go out is to meet new people and socialize. Staged concerts just aren't conducive to this. (Being a young single guy, I always pray a get seated next to a group of single girls. Never happens.) Nightclubs are. What you are doing is creating a situation where music is part of the experience, not the whole experience. Where people are less isolated... in a traditional concert the only relevant relationship is performer-audience. Here you are breaking that down and facilitating audience-audience interaction. Plus the alcohol helps a lot.

Hucbald said...

I'll have to second Colin: I too have thought for some time that part of the problem with classical music venues is that they are restrictively formal. Classical music needs it's version of the jazz club where the music is part of a larger experience, which would include interacting with the musicians. Bravo. Let's hope this idea spreads.