Jeans not black tie: going Beyond Classical

The idea behind Beyond Classical stemmed from Symphony Hall’s existing strand of successful free events in the foyer, which cover jazz, folk, South-Asian music and family performances. Why not expand this further and take classical music outside of the concert hall too?

The perceived ‘barriers’ which put people off attending formal classical concerts are numerous (ticket price, intimidation, worries about clapping in the wrong place etc), even though people who regularly attend classical concerts know such barriers don’t actually exist.

Putting a concert in the foyer in the format of a jazz gig removes many of these ‘barriers’ and makes the relationship between the audience and performer much more relaxed. The musicians are able to chat about the pieces and give their personal insight on the music, they wear jeans not black tie, and the bar is open throughout.

Beyond Classical is a partnership with Birmingham Conservatoire – the monthly sessions provide performance opportunities for their students, as well as developing their presentation skills by encouraging them to talk to the audience, who in turn are treated to classical performances in a more intimate and informal manner in the comfortable surroundings of our Cafe Bar at Symphony Hall.

Having had the first event last month, so far the theory seems to be working out well. If you have an open-minded attitude to music, perhaps occasionally listen to Classic FM or watch a bit of the Proms on TV, but would like to test the water before spending money on a concert, then this is the place for you.

Or perhaps you know someone else who fits that description – either way, this Thursday we showcase some of the greatest string quartet music and it would be fantastic have you in the audience. Grab a drink, have a chat and enjoy the music!

– Emily Jones, THSH Programme Coordinator

The ability to communicate directly with the audience in a semi-formal context is an important part of any performing musician’s experience. The new Beyond Classical series allows Birmingham Conservatoire students to explore this area of their development. Giving this opportunity to some of our strongest students, it is interesting to see what a wide variety of repertoire they have offered. Even more interestingly, the audience response at the first event suggests that they in turn will be receptive to that musical variety. Paul Norman, a postgraduate guitarist, recently offered a programme entirely of contemporary classical music, some of it quite adventurous for first-time listeners. Paul’s lively introductions, and the audience’s concentrated attention, bode well for the future of this exciting initiative.

– David Purser, Birmingham Conservatoire Head of Orchestral Programme

Bantock String Quartet play Beyond Classical on Thursday 22 November (5.30pm) in Symphony Hall Cafe Bar. Free.