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Friday, February 17, 2012

A Classical Revolution

Play this clip to accompany your reading:

It was the early 1980s, and I had just purchased my first CD player. I had the future in my hands, however, I had no music on CD whatsoever. What would I get that would be worthy of such a new piece of technology? I had grabbed a copy of Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor recorded in a church in Europe, but such a short piece only served to assure me that at full volume, my living room could be made to sound like a Gothic cathedral during an organ recital.

I had heard that the classical genre had the largest musical dynamic range and thus would best take advantage of the CD technology. So, I turned to a friend and performer, William Lee (aka Master Lee), whose mother I knew listened to classical music. My impatience knew no bounds.

When I met him soon thereafter passing through Washington Square Park, I asked what classical music recordings I should get as a neophyte. He replied, without hesitation, the Brandenburg Concertos by Bach. Hearing a plural, I asked how many concertos there were and which I should buy. Six, he answered, and it does not matter which. So, initially, I purchased the 1-3 and later 4-6. I am forever grateful for his recommendation - it is hard to imagine a better choice for the first-time listener to classical music.

My interest in classical music grew, and it became my total musical diet for some years. I even dabbled in playing instruments that I came to love, taking lessons in violin and cello. My German-made Pfretzschner cello still sits gathering dust in my closet, testimony to the daunting task of learning an unfretted classical stringed instrument.

As I write this, I am listening to Brandenburg Concerto #3, 3rd Movement, and all I can think is what a lively, engaging, absolutely sublime piece of music. My hair is standing on end in full-body goosebumps. So, you can imagine my surprise and elation last night when, walking into Think Coffee cafe, only to get out of the cold on a dreary, drizzly night, a friend and I encountered a string quartet in full swing. They played a Brahms sextet and, in a fortuitous and serendipitous twist of fate, an ensemble of nine players finished with none other than the first movement of Brandenburg Concerto #3.

I was to learn that this was not a spontaneous or whimsical event but rather the New York City chapter of a group known as Classical Revolution, an organization with 30 chapters worldwide. The organization was formed in 2006 at Revolution Cafe in San Francisco by violist Charith Premawardhana with a mission of presenting classical music in a casual atmosphere. The members are a collective of accomplished classically trained musicians. The performances are jam sessions, and any musician is welcome to join and play along with the core members. I love the concept of chamber music brought to casual venues.

Good things are even better when they come unplanned as a complete surprise. This was New York City at its best, where culture can be found lurking around any corner - another Pocket of Joy and nothing short of a Classical Revolution

More on classical music: The Redeemer, Click of a Mouse, Acquired Taste, Free Lunch, Bad Hair Day, Sounds of Summer, Bargemusic, Not So Kleine, Music for 9 Basses and 1 Cello


Leslie said...

Fabulous music. Many thanks!

What a treat to unexpectedly come across that live music. Hope I get that lucky!

Tamera said...

Listening to any of the Brandenburg Concertos has the same effect on me. Goosbumps. Almost unbearably exquisite music. I especially love the Violin Concerto No. 2 in E Major (Allegro). Oh! It makes my heart sing!

Jack said...

I re-found classical music around the same time and in the same way you did. CDs.

I am kind of mixed about having this group playing in a coffee house environment. We are used to people talking over piano players, guitarists or a couple of strings. But, this seems to deserve a real listen, doesn't it?

Creepy watching that girl stand and photograph you.

Hate your word verification format.

Charith said...

The quality of playing displayed in this video is not indicative of Classical Revolution as an organization.
CRNYC performs generally at a much lower level than other CR chapters in San Francisco, Madison, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and 25 other cities.
I suppose New York doesn't have the level of musicianship these other places do.