Classical Music and Clubbing-What a Night!

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Ralph
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Classical Music and Clubbing-What a Night!

Post by Ralph » Thu Aug 31, 2006 6:33 am

From The Telegraph:

Orchestral manoeuvres after dark
(Filed: 31/08/2006)

Classical music is being dragged out of the concert hall and into clubs, pubs and bars. Laura Barnett meets the pioneers splicing string quartets and dance grooves

In the sweaty, beer-soaked pit at the Hackney Empire in East London, the crowd is calling for the main act. "Start, then!" someone shouts as the hip-hop DJ stops spinning and the curtain rises on a 45-piece classical orchestra. The conductor lifts his baton, and the crowd cheers.
In the mix: the pioneering Heritage Orchestra was born out of a club night at Cargo

This is far from the average classical concert – but then the Heritage Orchestra is far from the average classical ensemble. Made up of classically-trained musicians in their mid-twenties, Heritage blends sweeping orchestration with jazz breaks, soul vocals and cinematic soundscapes.

It was born out of a club night at Cargo in London's buzzing Shoreditch, one of a number of projects currently dragging classical music out of concert halls and into clubs, pubs and bars.

Also at Cargo, Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev's grandson, Gabriel, runs classical nights called Chamber Music, while down the road at Shoreditch Town Hall the monthly night This Isn't For You began mixing live classical performances with DJ sets of film music earlier this year. On the other side of the city, the Arctic Circle offers a similar bill every few months at the Notting Hill Arts Club.

What they all have in common is disillusionment with the traditional classical scene. Chris Wheeler, the 26-year-old founder and manager of Heritage, started the club nights two years ago while studying at London's Guildhall School of Music. He named them Heritage after a particularly fraught encounter with the school's director.

"I'd been studying classical trombone for two years," says Wheeler, "but I'd got a bit peeved with it because I couldn't see any job opportunities.

"It all culminated when I failed some classical theory exams and got hauled up before the college director. He said, 'Chris, what are you playing at? This is your heritage.' But traditional classical music is not my heritage. What's more important to me is to reinvent art, to create heritage."

His idea has taken root. What began as a 30-piece band sharing the club night programme with DJs has become an orchestra with a pool of 70 musicians and an album recorded on renowned DJ Gilles Peterson's label, Brownswood.

Most of the repertoire is composed by Jules Buckley, also 26, who trained in jazz trumpet and composition at Guildhall. Wheeler and Buckley insist they're reflecting the kind of music young classical musicians want to play, in the kind of venues they want to play in.

"Time has moved on, and a lot of these classical scenes haven't," says Wheeler. "What we're doing taps into what the young musician gets a kick out of. It's totally uncontrived, natural and honest."

It's easy to imagine why listening to classical music with a drink in one hand and a cigarette in the other is also more appealing to an audience weaned on club culture than sitting quietly in the Wigmore Hall.

"You've got to get the audience in," Wheeler says. "There's a traditionalist, elitist culture around classical music which is becoming like a museum culture. Audiences are dying, they're getting older, and young people just aren't there."

Gabriel Prokofiev agrees. He began running Chamber Music – with a programme reflecting his own magpie taste as a composer and producer of classical, garage, house and electronic music – at about the same time that Wheeler started Heritage. Prokofiev was surprised by how well the classical items went down.

'On the first Chamber Music night," he says, "we had classical stuff and left-field dance music, a string quartet in the main room and a harpist in the bar.

"It was such an amazing experience. There were hundreds of twentysomethings in the bar listening to the harp with their beers, totally silent."

At 31, Prokofiev is a little older than the majority of the clubbers, but no less energetic in his commitment to getting classical music into less traditional venues.

"Young people can feel intimidated going to mainstream classical concerts – people are so serious. What's wrong with being able to listen and have a drink and a smoke? You don't have to be sitting in a chair to hear great classical music."

But hushed awe is generally difficult to achieve outside a traditional concert hall. Ben Eshmade, 30, a classically-trained French-horn player and Classic FM producer, co-directs the Arctic Circle nights. He admits it's not always easy putting classical music across in a bar or club.

"When it's something like a solo pianist, the acoustics can be difficult," he says. "But people tend to come close and shut up, and the people who don't want to listen go to the other side of the bar. It's taking the pompousness out of it: why should you have to sit there and listen to everything on the programme?"

Purists may shudder at the thought of string quartets spliced with breakbeats and dance grooves, but none of these young musicians, composers and producers sees classical clubbing as a threat to traditional classical music.

If anything, they hope that, by introducing classical sounds to a club-going audience who would never usually set foot inside a concert hall, they may breathe new life into the genre.

"What this is all about is changing the social circumstance of classical music," says Wheeler. "You get the audience in, and what do you do? You throw some classical orchestration in their face and think one day, maybe, we'll be able to say it's meant that these people gave classical music a second glance."
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Lark Ascending
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Post by Lark Ascending » Thu Aug 31, 2006 2:55 pm

I favour the sit quietly and listen to the music approach, so this would not suit me (and the thought of an environment of smoke & beer is equally off-putting). However if it helps to interest young people in classical music, good luck to the organisers.
"Look here, I have given up my time, my work, my friends and my career to come here and learn from you, and I am not going to write a petit menuet dans le style de Mozart." - Ralph Vaughan Williams to Maurice Ravel

jbuck919
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Post by jbuck919 » Thu Aug 31, 2006 3:22 pm

Matt Heimowitz, a great and still youthful cellist from the Baltimore area, has done this. It is hard to gainsay young performers who want to connect themselves to more pop levels of success without compromising themselves artistically, or atlernatively to prove that theirs is not after all an arcane pursuit. I wish them well, but am doubtful.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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