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Mozart in Bars? A Classical Revolution hits Houston Friday night

Mozart in Bars? A Classical Revolution hits Houston Friday night

Classical Revolution
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WindSync Wind Quintet Photo by Ryan Gard and Ciara Ayala
Apollo Chamber Players
Apollo Chamber Players
Classical Revolution
News_Nancy_wrap up_WindSync
Apollo Chamber Players

Revolution, it's the concept du jour.

Whether you are a rebel somewhere in the Middle East fighting for hope and change, swear off food because you don't agree with certain political economic decisions or you have given up YouTube in protest of Rebecca Black, there is a global confluence of pissed-off-ness. Many have just about had it and are ready to do something drastic, guerilla style.

The king himself said it: A little less conversation, a little more action, please.

In this spirit, classical music has met its match. Classical Revolution, a San Francisco initiative by Shepherd School of Music graduate Charith Premawardhana, is making its rounds nationwide and arriving in Houston Friday at 8 p.m. at Avant Garden. Titled "Home Grown", the program showcases local musicians including the Apollo Chamber Players, WindSync woodwind quintet and bassist Bella Leslie.

As a popular genre, classical music is at a disadvantage purely because of its name. The term really describes music written between around 1720 and 1850, and continues to be the preferred label for any composition that stems from that tradition, though the majority of works have nothing to do with that artistic period. Think Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven prior to his heroic Symphony No. 5. 

The classical music stereotype evokes images of a species of socialites enjoying Earl Grey tea and scones, dainty raspberry jam included, giggling carelessly, while others discuss the intricacies of the philosophical implications of the counterpoint as it commingles with the cantus firmus, using words like polyphony, leitmotif and fagott (aka bassoon).

But such masterworks as the second movement of Shostakovich Symphony No. 10Richard Strauss Death and Transfiguration, the opening of Carl Orff's Carmina Burana and Stravinsky's Rite of Spring have little to do with that perception. Instead, the music often encourages raucous circular head swaying helicopter action. Dare I say bad ass? Comparing Mozart and Shostakovich is equivalent to talking about Wham! and Aerosmith in the same sentence. 

It may seem like the concept of presenting classical music in bars is incongruous, but these concerts have been happening for quite a while in the name of classical music outreach, a term that I despise vehemently for its fraternizing implications of good doing, implying listeners' lives will be that much better and somehow transformed by attending the show. 

Classical Revolution, on the other hand, seeks world domination, organizing a movement that will increase the frequency of classical music in bars associated with the brand, often including an open-mic reading session for chamber musicians.

"The goal of having Classical Revolution represented in every major city in the world is part of it, but not the ultimate goal," Premawardhana said. "Ultimately, we want to bring the global network of musicians and music lovers closer together to share in the non-virtual, non-digital experience of live music performances. We also want to support our local music communities by providing work and resources to independent musicians and ensembles."

Tracy Jacobson, WindSync bassoonist and Houston leader for Classical Revolution, hopes to replicate the success Classical Revolution has had in San Francisco, hosting over 500 concerts and involving 600 plus musicians in the last four years, working under a fiscal sponsorship model through the San Francisco Friends of Chamber Music.

For Jacobson, Jell-O and classical music share similarities. Though Jell-O was available in the Victorian Era, it exploded in 1904 when its new owner, Genesee Pure Foods Company, distributed free cookbooks.

"The convenience, great taste as well as inexpensive price of the Jell-O should have made it an instant success. But the general public didn’t know what to do with it, in the same way that classical music is often well loved and appreciated. Concert tickets are affordable and it’s convenient to get them, but the general public is unsure about how to proceed pursuing concerts or events," she said.

"The free Jello-O cookbooks explained the place that this strange product could have in their kitchens and dining tables. It is my hope that the free concerts will act as 'the Jell-O cookbook,' giving the attendees a place to start their pursuit of other classical music concerts, possibly as loyal paying listeners."
Like for-profit business models, good ideas do not always yield results, often due to a lack of strategy. But somehow, Classical Revolution is making it work in more than a dozen cities, from Seattle to New York, with international pockets in Montreal, Toronto and Berlin.
Part of Apollo's goal as an ensemble is to reach new audiences and to expand the 'traditional' classical music market," Matt Detrick, violinist, said.
"Performing in venues such as the Avant Garden gives groups like ours a younger, fresher audience with which to expand our fan base. Additionally, this will provide Apollo further opportunity to showcase our unique musical voice; specifically, our emphasis on the discovery and influences of folk music in the classical realm and our arrangements of popular and rarely heard works from various ethnicities and world cultures."
Implementing this model, sporadically, has been done. Doing so in an ongoing and organized fashion, is, indeed, revolutionary.
Check out WindSync performing Jacques Ibert's Trois Pieces Breves for Woodwind Quintet at Cafe Vivaldi in NYC:

The first Classical Revolution Houston concert is Friday at 8:00 p.m. at Avant Garden on Westheimer. Free admission.