Londonist is working with Sound and Music, the national agency for new music, to introduce you to some intriguingly creative events.
Continuing on our quest to have Londonist readers sample new music experiences and report back, we sent an intrepid trio to the Monarch in Camden where the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment were pitching up for The Night Shift, an evening of classical music in the pub. On hand to give them some expert insight was Jake Thompson-Bell, Composer in Residence at Somerset House and Nick Sherrard of Sound and Music. Here's what they thought.
How did you feel before the performance – what did you expect?
Thomas: I was a bit sceptical beforehand. Classical music in a pub environment. I didn’t think it would work. I felt that maybe Haydn was outside his comfort zone. I was looking forward to the reaction of the audience, how would they respond, would people be sshhhing others. Outside the music, that’s what I was looking forward to – the reaction of the audience.
Joel: I was quite busy before the gig, and only managed to finally check out the website and Youtube preview info on the day of the performance. Having had not much expectation before, I was quite excited. I was glad I got there a little earlier for some pre-show chat, and found my expectations rising along the way.
How did the performance make you feel? What did you make of it?
Thomas: Thomas: From the outset the lead violinist made us all feel very comfortable.He introduced the programme of events and once they started the power of the music made people forget about their environment and the whole pub became immersed in the sound. As the performance featured a newly composed piece the introduction from the composer, in the format of a brief Q&A, felt a bit awkward, but nevertheless it was enjoyable to match his answer to the question "what does your music smell like?", to the rather peculiar yet accurate response of "grapefruit".
After a very intense first half, people became more relaxed and the classical mosh pit which formed at the front of the stage began to spread across the pub. People felt more relaxed and at home with the music.
Joel: I found it captivating and provocative. The obvious juxtaposition aimed for with classical music in a pub setting was very interesting. I felt like I could lean in to hear a quip, ask a question, order another pint and immerse myself in the music with ease.
Was it accessible? Did you need specialist knowledge to enjoy it?
Thomas: I think anyone would have enjoyed the performance. It was evident the command that classical music has over its audience, the silence, the intense listening and the enjoyment on people’s faces showed that the experiment worked. I enjoyed the lead’s remark about when Haydn would have performed no one would have been listening - it would have been background music for the aristocracy. How times have changed.
Joel: Very accessible. I felt at the beginning there was a level of reverent silence that inferred the crowd still felt rule-book bound. It eased noticeably with the witty artist banter. The later interactive crowd ‘drinking game’ achieved its aim of loosening the crowd up and the smiles were all around. I don’t think you need specialist knowledge to enjoy incredible, evocative music either way. It was clear to even the people walking past it looked as good we heard it inside.
Would you recommend the experience to your friends?
Thomas: I would. I took a friend who wasn’t a “Classical Music Nerd” as someone in the audience described themselves, and they thoroughly enjoyed it. Very relaxing. I would like to enjoy a pint in my local pub on a Saturday afternoon with a string quartet for company.
Joel: Certainly! I already have to most people I know, and it got a very interested response from everyone.
Would you try other OAE or new music events?
Thomas: I’m up for anything. I liked the idea of this event, taking classical music out of its comfort zone. As I discussed with the group I would like to see the same concert but with an unsuspecting audience and compare the reactions.
Joel: Of course. I missed one earlier before this particular event, and am looking forward to more in future, hopefully with friends.
Many thanks to our samplers Joel and Thomas & friend.
Interested in more events like these? Browse listings in The Sampler.