Where Should Classical Music Be Performed?

If you follow the classical music world as I do, you’ll know that there’s a lot of innovation going on right now around where classical music should be performed. I use the word “should” because the prevailing wisdom for the last few decades is that classical music should be heard in a concert hall where there are no distractions and you can hear a pin drop. However here in New York City innovative venues like SubCulture and Le Poisson Rouge are challenging that assumption, and doing so with a lot of success. And this article from Mother Jones about an all-volunteer run classical music program in San Francisco, “Classical Revolution,” provides a full description of what’s going on there, and why it’s working.

I’m not suggesting that classical music should abandon the concert hall. Rather I’m for the “and” approach. Forward thinking classical music organizations ought expand their thinking in terms of where they perform and under what conditions. The Brooklyn Academy of Music puts on casual concerts (some classical and some pop) on the second floor lounge above their opera house. And, at Lincoln Center, there is a small venue where late-night concerts are performed along with wine in an intimate setting. So, could you repurpose some portion of your venue to do something like this? How about a pre-concert casual concert or a late-night event?

I’m not giving this as a recommendation or prescription. I’m only saying that there seems to be a new audience that wants to hear classical music in another setting. How and where you take advantage of that trend is up to you, but it seems like it’s a trend worth paying attention to.

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One response to “Where Should Classical Music Be Performed?

  1. Hi Gene, great to meet you and learn about Patron Technology at APAP! The new models you mention are very different. Classical Revolution is an artistic movement that has been around for 8 years now and sparked some 40+ barely-associated chapters worldwide. I organized the Detroit chapter in 2010 and produced nearly 55 CRD events before we began a Knight Arts Challenge Grant project to expand. While professional club classical really began in Europe, not surprisingly, it was inevitable to take hold in the US. I believe the catalyst for the CR mvmt was the smoking laws that made it desirable for classical musicians here.

    While LPR and Subculture run like the professional venues that they are, Classical Revolution is so casual and voluntary that it resembles a spontaneous happening rather than a performance. It feels intimate, like a living room full of beloved friends. Speaking of which, house concerts are the next “big” venue for classical, esp. for young audiences such as the groupmuse.com platform. Will such small “venues” build new ticket-buying classical audience for large venues among arts-outsiders? There are no panaceas, but I think we will see mixed results over the long-term.

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