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Classical Revolution GR hosts Chamber Music party

Preview of the Classical Revolution Grand Rapids event at the SpeakEZ
Members of the Grand Rapids Symphony at CRGR at the SpeakEZ Lounge

Members of the Grand Rapids Symphony at CRGR at the SpeakEZ Lounge /Classical Revolution GR

Invitation to a Chamber Music party

This event is Free

Classical Revolution GR "Classical Soup"

Weds, September 25

SpeakEZ Lounge

600 Monroe Ave NW, 49503


Detroit Classical Revolution

Detroit Classical Revolution /Rick Robinson

For any live music fan the following is a familiar setting: In a darkened bar the musicians take the stage and begin tuning their instruments, there is a perceptible electricity to the air as drinks are flowing and the crowd chatters in excited anticipation.  The setting could describe any rock show on any given night at any given bar, but what is unique about this particular performance is that it is members of the Grand Rapids Symphony Orchestra performing chamber music in the up close and personal setting of small venue as part of the Classical Revolution GR series of concerts. 

This Wednesday, September 25, the Classical Revolution GR brings it’s Classical Soup concert back to the SpeakEZ Lounge (600 Monroe Ave NW, 49503) for another night of live classical music in a cozy and intimate setting.  The CRGR concerts are a thoroughly entertaining, fun and inviting performances and are a must see for anyone with a deep appreciation for classical music to knowing next to nothing about classical music in general.    

The Classical “revolution” began in San Francisco in 2006 as music conservatory students wanted to have other avenues to play for their friends other than the symphony halls.  Self described as “Chamber music for the people”, the first performance took place at the Revolutionary Café hence the name “Classical Revolution”.  The shows were a success and soon monthly performances expanded to weekly slots and ultimately to three to four events a week.   Like the San Francisco Beatniks in the 1950s, these ambitious students launched a movement. 

Leanne King McDonald, violist with the GRSO and an active participant in the CRGR series hopes the CRGR concerts achieve a “community outreach” and help to educate the community that classical music is something that can be enjoyed by everyone.

“We want to engage the community and build a new audience and show people that classical music is accessible,” MacDonald said.  She describes the events as “chamber music parties” and recalls stories of how composers and musicians alike were not regulated only to the orchestra but were found playing in taverns and cafes as well as the concert hall.

“Bach used to perform at coffee shops!” MacDonald says, laughing.

The goal of Classical Revolution is to “take classical music off the pedestal,” says Rick Robinson, the founder of the Grand Rapids chapter of Classical Revolution also known as CRGR.

The CRGR idea was propelled into action an in July 2012 at the B.O.B. the first CRGR performance was with subsequent shows in January and March of 2013 at the Speak EZ.  Robinson also credits the cigarette smoking ban opened up the clubs to classical performers.  “It’s impossible to invite a woodwind player wanting to play in the haze of a smoke filled bar,” he says.

Robinson, a former member of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra started a Classical Revolution chapter in Detroit in 2010.  Robinson left DSO in 2012 and started working with the Grand Rapids Symphony Orchestra.  The move provided an opportunity to discuss with other members of the orchestra about starting a GRCR chapter.  Robinson posed questions to his fellow musicians regarding the relevance of classical music today and what can be done to open more doors.  He began to convince his colleagues that “we are in the inspiration business, not just the music business.” 

“People discover underground and experimental rock music in the clubs but are unwilling to do the same for classical.  Why?  Is the music outdated?  Or is it the presentation?  How can we make classical music relevant?” Robinson says.  He pointed out the challenge is especially difficult in a song dominated culture – there aren’t any lyrics in [most] classical music, nor any thumping 4/4 time dance beats, the two aspects of popular music people most identify with.

 “Young people are open to every kind of music except classical. [Perhaps because] Classical musicians push them away,” he states.  Classical music can be daunting in its complexity and richness of sound and as a result people tend to have the impression that classical music is “academic and exclusive” and CRGR hopes to change that problem.  “We don’t have to be rich to appreciate classical music, it makes us feel rich,” he says.

MacDonald agrees that attracting a younger audience is key to building a “sustaining institution”. 

“Younger people are braver when it comes to seeking out new sounds,” she says.

While it is a bit of a paradox to think of classical music as a “new” sound, it is easy to see how the aura surrounding classical music can be perceived as outdated or elitist.   

The CRGR is yet another rich and rewarding and unique addition to the already diverse Grand Rapids music scene.  Please plan to attend this Sunday at the SpeakEZ lounge to experience an ‘old and outdated’ form of music in an entirely new and vital way.

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