Classical Mixtape Live 1
Ideal for those keen to give classical a go, but not sure where to start. And for classical enthusiasts keen to give their friends or family members the right ‘conversion’ experience.
Friday 1 February | 7.30pm
£15 (downstairs/unreserved); £20 (upstairs/reserved); £5 student ticket
Meurig Bowen, our new classical programmer, picks out the first of his ‘Don’t Miss’ favourite events in St George’s 2019 Spring/Summer season – Classical Mixtape Live 1. Meurig, who combines his St George’s role with being Head of Artistic Planning for BBC National Orchestra of Wales, was Director of the Cheltenham Music Festival for ten years, from 2008 to 2018.
My relationship with St George’s goes back a while – to a weekend of medieval and renaissance concerts I helped put on in the early ‘90s, fresh out of university. It was wonderful to reconnect with this very special venue when Chief Executive Suzanne Rolt and I worked on some joint St George’s / Cheltenham Festival projects much more recently. And now it’s a huge pleasure to be working with Suzanne to curate the classical concerts programme for St George’s. I’d like to tell you more here about our upcoming event on Friday 1 February: Classical Mixtape Live 1.
What we call ‘Classical Music’ seems to have this bafflingly strange ability to repel and attract. As a genre, as a piece of cultural capital, its perceived niche historicism and lack of relevance or cool adds up, for many, to a pretty major image problem. And yet there are amazing moments when it has the ability to cut through into mainstream consciousness and have a powerful, widespread impact: think of Sheku Kanneh-Mason’s performance at that wedding last May.
For those of us who find classical music invigorating, nourishing, endlessly fascinating, centrally important in our lives, this widespread not-getting of classical music is distressing, to put it mildly. We want more people to love it not because we think it’s superior to other kinds of music, but because our response to it is so vivid and richly-layered, we want that passion to be more widely experienced. And if your day job, like mine, is to programme, to curate, to win people over, it’s a challenge that needs urgent and constant attention.
That’s why I came up with this live ‘Mixtape’ event, a new concert format I tried out first in Tewkesbury Abbey, near Cheltenham, in July 2017. Aimed at removing some key barriers people associate with a typical classical music event – cost, duration of pieces, perceived enforcement of etiquette – it’s a less formal concert experience, quite varied in musical content and texture, featuring multiple performance ‘stations’ (think ‘Later…with Jools Holland’) where you can keep your phones on, bring drinks in, share videos on social media in the moment – whilst still fully engaging with the perfomances and listening intently.
With an equal sense of relief and personal satisfaction, that first Tewkesbury event was a huge success – I’ve never had so much positive feedback about a concert I’ve programmed, and crucially from many who’d never been to or particularly enjoyed a classical concert before. Professionally speaking, it was a ‘bullseye moment’ for me, and so I’m very excited about bringing a variant of this concert to Bristol, shaped for the special characteristics of St George’s.
It’s a little hard to explain how it actually works; better perhaps to say how it feels – how the two unbroken 40 minute sequences of music are intended to sweep you up, envelop you, surprise you, move you and leave you bursting with emotion at the interval and at the end. Hundreds of people have given it a go in Tewkesbury Abbey, two summers running, and they loved it. We are keeping ticket prices as low and accessible as possible, so that one of classical music’s main potential or perceived barriers – cost – is not an issue. At St George’s, seats start at £15, and there are a limited number of £5 student tickets.
What else can I say other than: Please do come and give it a go. Trust me. Let the magic of beautiful music and amazing performers transport you and move you. And while I’m confident this event will be enjoyed by experienced and knowledgeable concert-goers, if you’ve never been to a classical concert before, you’ll be particularly welcome.
What you can expect from the music and the musicians:
Bathe in the luxuriantly smooth tone of celebrated Australian saxophonist, Amy Dickson, performing Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise, breaking the speed limit in Rimsky-Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumblebee and soaring above voices in Percy Grainger’s exquisite setting of the folksong Brigg Fair.
Movements from JS Bach’s solo cello suites, and The Swan from Saint-Saens’ Carnival of the Animals from Laura van der Heijden, winner of the 2012 BBC Young Musician Competition.
Marvel in the intricacy and intimacy of Daniel Pioro’s violin playing, as he weaves through the audience playing the Chaconne from JS Bach’s D minor Partita and the Passacaglia of baroque contemporary Heinrich Biber.
Pianist Adam Heron only left Wells Cathedral School 18 months ago, and he is now impressing widely as a scholar at London’s Royal Academy of Music. He will play Ravel’s heartbreakingly beautiful Pavane pour une infante defunte, and dazzling pieces by Bach and Chopin, as well as joining the other performers in an accompanying role.
Bristol’s hugely accomplished chamber choir Exultate, conducted by David Ogden, will melt hearts and raise the roof with John Tavener’s Hymn to the Mother of God, Eric Whitacre’s Lux Aurumque, the Sanctus from Fauré’s Requiem, Purcell’s Hear my Prayer and Morten Lauridsen’s O Magnum Mysterium.
Our Café Bar will be open from 6pm on the night for drinks and tapas