Yellow Lounge hits high note for young audiences
I was reading an article in BBC Music Magazine about classical performers increasingly thinking beyond the traditional concert halls in order for classical music to be heard by new audiences.
This thinking is not particularly new of course as musicians have always had to be inventive about how they present and market their music to audiences and has certainly been the case for the 40 years of my professional career.
As a solo clarinettist in the 80’s and 90’s, my performances took place in established concert halls or at classical music festivals and included Radio 3 broadcasts. At the same time, I was playing in prisons, hospices, old people’s homes and psychiatric hospitals many of which have long since been converted into luxury apartments!
All these required my physical presence. Times have changed, largely through the internet, and classical music now has the potential to be put forward on a digital platform and to have the reach and appeal of other music genres such as rock, pop, jazz and folk.
Reach and appeal, however, are no guarantees of audience and while online can provide choice and immediacy, it cannot create atmosphere and ambience for classical performance.
Classical music has a long tradition to uphold and in many ways that has been its albatross. Today, in our hushed halls, we are a long way from the interaction of audiences in the period from which classical music took its name. Mid-performance applause and calls for impromptu mid-recital encores were ways in which the audience took ownership of the performance and could not have been further from being frowned upon. Not so today as we sit in serried ranks, far removed from the performers, distantly respectful.
That, of course, is an exaggeration but it has an important kernel of truth. Ultimately, society will shape its artists and this is what is taking place today. If young audiences don’t want to sit quietly in large scale venues, they won’t and musicians must go to where the audiences want to be.
Here are some encouraging shoots – the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment are taking their performances to pubs and bars where listeners are welcome to show their appreciation whenever they like during the ‘set’ (gig-speke!). The new director of the BBC Proms (a proms moderniser you might call him) has no issue with audiences showing their enthusiasm by clapping after movements.
Perhaps the boldest and most innovative is that of Deutsche Grammophon’s Yellow Lounge.
The concept was launched over a decade ago in Berlin’s trendiest techno clubs with the aim of taking classical music to new audiences. Yellow Lounge nights have been attracting an ever-growing following of younger music-lovers for years now – not just in Berlin, but all over the world. Staged by cutting-edge visual artists, wherever the events take place they feature guest DJs spinning classical tracks alongside live performances by stars of the classical world, appearing in exclusive new formations with videos and lighting from VJs adding to the atmosphere.