A Classical Music Nightclub in Columbus?

Nightclubs could become the venue of choice for classical music listeners.(Photo: tuppus (Flickr))
Nightclubs could become the venue of choice for classical music listeners.(Photo: tuppus (Flickr))

Music writer Lucy Jones began a recent story in Britain’s Daily Telegraph with this description of a nightclub:

I went to the trendiest club I’ve ever been to on Friday evening. As we approached the hidden location, I thought we weren’t going to get in, the queues were so long. Snaking around beside the railway tunnel walls and a ceiling writhing with fluorescent, intense graffiti, the crowd was beautiful: international chic with an arty, but impeccable, slant. Lots of razor sharp cheekbones, nose rings, ironic novelty jumpers and top hats. A little more sophisticated than the average gang out in Shoreditch.

No, it wasn’t the newest techno club on the London scene; it was the Yellow Lounge, the second installment in a project, led by Universal Music Group COO Max Hole, to bring classical music to hip venues beyond the concert hall. The project has taken root in Germany and now has moved into England.

Perhaps the United States’ most famous example of this phenomenon, New York’s Le Poisson Rouge nightclub has for years presented classical musicians alongside artists in s0-called popular music genres. But for the most part, classical music performances remain in the concert hall, for better or for worse.

But which is it – better or worse? The argument for keeping classical music exclusively in the domain of the concert hall seems to give preferential treatment to the art form of classical music, not those who listen to it: much of what we today call classical music first came before the public in concert halls, so honoring this tradition, let’s keep it in the concert halls.

But just because the concert hall is the traditional domain of classical music, does that mean classical music performances must remain only there? People play classical music in parks, in subways, on the street – can’t it have a night out once in a while? Since many people like informality in their downtime these days, why not enable them to have enjoyable informal experiences with classical music by putting performances of classical music in venues like clubs? Wouldn’t both the listeners and the art form be better served?

Of course, one need not throw out the baby with the bath. Classical music concerts can still take place in traditional venues like concert halls, even though they are now also happening in clubs. But if traditional venues have an alienating effect on some listeners – and there is significant anecdotal evidence, at least, that they do – then the art form, if it is to remain relevant, must also go where the listeners want to be.

I would love to see central Ohio nightclubs embrace classical music as a regular part of their musical offerings. I would love to see cellists and pianists in jeans jamming away and chatting with the audience about the music in the intimate space of a club right here in our fair city. But even more, I’d love to see folks who regularly go to clubs stumble upon classical music there, see that it’s hip and beautiful and even without all the pomp and circumstance presumed of traditional concert-hall concerts.

So, should there be more classical music performances in nightclubs in central Ohio? What effect do you think classical music on the local nightclub scene would have on the art form of classical music and its listeners?

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