Over the weekend, I got an email from Richard Flohill, inviting myself and a handful of music-lovers out to Lula Lounge for a Monday night PWYC show. I hadn’t heard of the band, Euphonia, but the words Mozart-Mendelssohn-Haydn caught my eye, and Richard’s taste is pretty finely-honed, so I was in.
I always feel a little sheepish admitting that I like Classical music; it’s sort-of the last frontier. People tend to react like you’re putting on airs, as if Classical music were a high-brow art form that only people from a certain generation and income bracket enjoy. But anyone paying any attention to music history can tell you that Classical music was pop(ular) music and composers were rock stars. ((Shakespeare, too, was the CSI/reality TV of his day, and anyone who pooh-poohs modern entertainment has no idea what they’re talking about.)) Girls were screaming and throwing themselves at composers/conductors in a very similar way to the present, and I’m sure there was some kind of 18th-century equivalent to covering your bedroom in pictures of your crush, cut from the pages of Tiger Beat. ((I’m honestly gobsmacked to learn that Tiger Beat and BOP still exist.))
I’ve been wanting to go see a live symphony for a long while now, but it’s hard for me to justify laying out $60+ for a ticket in the nosebleeds when I can go over to a local bar and sit 5′ from an excellent artist for $10. So what a treat to find myself ensconced at a table with Richard, Jay Aymar and a bunch of music lovers, sipping beer as the brilliant performers of Euphonia played three sets, one from each composer.
Sometimes, when music is really good, it captures my complete attention; there were several times during the Mozart and Haydn sets ((I’m just not as big a fan of Mendelssohn.)) when I found myself, mouth agape, sitting motionless, just swept away by the music. I was enthralled.
This is the way Chamber Orchestras were designed to be heard, in smaller rooms with no amplification, and by people whose attention might not be fully on the music. Like seasoned bar performers, the composers of these works had to be able to grab and hold their audience’s attention, and holy hell, were they ever good at it. Though Lula was running the bar and dinner service throughout, there were several times during the night that you could’ve heard a pin drop, because everyone was listening so intently.
To my ear, the performers were highly-skilled, but the thing that really struck me was how being close to the band really made you appreciate how the instruments in a chamber orchestra have been chosen carefully over centuries to build naturally the kind of mix that few sound techs ever achieve. To be in such close physical proximity to the players made you feel as though the resonant spaces in your own body were a part of the sound. It’s hard to describe, but it was so much more a physical experience than passively watching a band play.
At one point, Flo leaned over to me and said “Wouldn’t this be amazing at a folk festival?!” and I enthusiastically agreed; because they need no amplification, you could throw them anywhere ((I’ve been getting ideas – program them in a forest or a field, or in a North Canoe on a lake. On a hay wagon. there are some logistical issues – you’d have to make sure the sheet music doesn’t blow away – but those could be overcome.)) and they would be fantastic. And so many Classical composers drew inspiration – or straight-up ripped-off – folk music, you could tie it in beautifully. And what an incredible & delicious contrast it would be to have modern singer-songwriters and World Music acts on the same bill as a chamber orchestra.
In any event, whether or not you think you like Classical music, ((Do you like music? Do you like anything?!)) you should lay down a couple of fins on this chamber orchestra next time you’ve got a free Monday night. They’re playing Lula again on October 21, November 11, and December 16.
Check out the video, but imagine how awesome it would be to hear this live, in person, with the sound just like, wrapping around you. It’s unbelievable.