Classical music goes clubbing

Classical music goes clubbing at Anthology -

This sounds like a really fun idea. I wonder how many folks in cities are "intimidated" by their local concert hall. Anyone else have these kinds of alternative presentations of classical music in their area? I'll be looking around Columbus for a place to do something like this.

Violinist John Stubbs and several musician friends were walking through San Diego’s Little Italy, visiting shops, when a man noticed their instrument cases and struck up a conversation.

He wanted to know where they played.

When they told him they played with the San Diego Symphony, he confided that he hadn’t heard any symphonic concerts in San Diego and he felt intimidated by Symphony Hall.

Stubbs recalls one of the musicians asking, “Would you come to hear us if we were playing in Anthology?”

“That would be so cool!” the man said.

That’s exactly what Stubbs and his friends in Luscious Noise have been doing since November, performing every two months at the Anthology dinner and music club in Little Italy. Their next performance is May 9. Luscious Noise, a classical music organization with a multimedia flair, is the creation of Stubbs, a violinist with the San Diego Symphony and the conductor and music director of the California Ballet Company.

Comparable initiatives aiming to revitalize classical music have been springing up everywhere in recent years. For several seasons, Art of Élan has sought a more intimate connection with listeners in periodic performances at the San Diego Museum of Art. In San Francisco, Classical Revolution plays chamber music at bars and cafes. The Deutsche Grammophon record company in Berlin has a program that sends classical musicians to perform late-night sets at city nightclubs. And The New Yorker magazine recently wrote about (Le) Poisson Rouge, a New York classical music venue with a jazz-club setting, complete with waiters serving food and drink at the tables (similar to what happens at Anthology).

Excited by the prospect of access to Anthology’s multimedia facilities, Stubbs envisioned presenting not only live classical music, but various combinations of the arts.

Stubbs approached Anthology with his idea and got the thumbs up for a November program exploring aspects of the theme of “love” and combining music performed by San Diego Symphony musicians; film clips of dance and music and from Orson Welles’ “The Third Man”; and live dance performed by Denise Dabrowski, former prima ballerina of the California Ballet (and Stubbs’ wife).

The formula was a success. On May 9 (Mother’s Day), the program will revolve around the theme of “spring” and will include videos of Martha Graham dancing in Copland’s “Appalachian Spring” ballet and the soprano Natalie Dessay singing Johann Strauss Jr.’s “Voices of Spring,” as well as live performances of the spring movement from Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, Beethoven’s “Spring” Sonata for violin and piano, Sibelius’ “The Lover,” and works by Tchaikovsky and Mozart.

“That’s what I’m really looking forward to — more classical musicians who have projects outside the symphony can come in a smaller setting and distribute music to different, smaller audiences that normally wouldn’t go to Symphony Hall.”

“We’re always talking about reaching out to the community, trying to get more people interested,” he said. “This is my idea of what outreach should be: You take it into a club.”

But it’s not just a matter of playing music in less formal surroundings. It also involves changing the atmosphere. The musicians in Luscious Noise, nearly all of whom are members of the San Diego Symphony, have a more relaxed attitude toward preparing and presenting these concerts. Instead of the multiple rehearsals they might have for symphonic concerts, there’s only one rehearsal for Luscious Noise.

“We have fun (at that rehearsal),” Stubbs said, “and then we do the show. … There’s no feeling of ‘We’re going to be putting on this amazing, polished performance.’ It’s a little bit like a seat-of-the-pants thing, so it’s fun for the musicians. ... There’s a sense of joy for them also.”

That joy in music-making is infectious, Stubbs said. And when the audience is close to the musicians, as in Anthology, they share in the joy.

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