Don't roll over Beethoven

The Roundhouse is more famous for rock than symphonies, but it could be just the venue to build up a young classical fanbase, says Jessica Duchen

How to persuade young people to attend classical concerts is an issue that has troubled the music world for decades. Attempt after attempt has bitten the dust, leaving the largely over-50s demographic of classical audiences virtually unchanged, give or take a little marketing via Facebook.

Now a dynamic new series in Camden Town is set to break the mould. Reverb at the Roundhouse, featuring everything from Beethoven to cutting-edge new works, is bringing classical music into a venue that has a devoted following among young fans of the coolest rock and pop gigs.

Will the teens and twenty-somethings of north London be ready to sample Bach or experimental percussion? Marcus Davey, chief executive and artistic director of the Roundhouse, is certain they will. The Roundhouse runs programmes at its studios in which local youngsters explore music-making, broadcasting, film-making and music production. One day, offered a box at a Prom, Davey gave the seats to some of the Roundhouse teenagers who had never been to a classical concert. "They were absolutely blown away," Davey declares. "They said: 'You ever heard of this amazing Stravinsky bloke?' They loved the energy and the fantastic playing."

Concerts targeted at young people have tended to water-down classical music to make it "cool". Most teenagers see through such gimmicks straight away. "They know when they're being patronised," Davey says.

The Roundhouse is no stranger to classical performances: in the 1970s it hosted a series of contemporary-focused concerts by the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Pierre Boulez, and the piano duo of Katia and Marielle Labèque made their London debut there. The Labèques are returning for Reverb.

One of the most exciting contributions comes from the London Contemporary Orchestra: launched in 2008, its players' average age is 25. "All of us are passionate about contemporary music and thrilled to devote so much attention to it," says the LCO violinist Davina Clarke.

The LCO's founders, conductor Hugh Brunt and violist Robert Ames, have a secret weapon: the chairman of their board is Simon Ambrose, the winner of The Apprentice in 2007. Ambrose developed a passion for contemporary music when he heard the works of Cage and Stockhausen at school. "I'd question whether classical music really is losing popularity," he says. "Many of our supporters and audience members see classical as just one part of a lively musical diet."

The LCO's adventurous programme for Reverb includes a new Concerto for Turntable by Shiva Feshareki, the UK premiere of John Cage's Seventy-Four, and Steve Reich's Different Trains with live film created by the youngsters of the Roundhouse Studios. More thrills are promised from the likes of the pianists Joanna MacGregor and Rolf Hind, and the Britten Sinfonia with the popular young American composer Nico Muhly.

And how will the big historical classics go across? The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment is bringing in its ground-breaking Night Shift concept. They'll perform Beethoven's Seventh Symphony conducted by Vladimir Jurowski, with a band before and club night after provided by the Roundhouse Collective.

Has the Roundhouse solved the young audience problem at last? Ambrose says. "What's important is to be open-minded." Maybe that's the most crucial thing of all.

22-31 January (0844 482 8008; Roundhouse.org.uk)

Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Jenny Lee may have left, but Miranda Hart and the rest of the midwives deliver the goods

Arts and Entertainment
Legendary blues and rock singer Joe Cocker has died of lung cancer, his management team as confirmed. He was 70
music The singer has died aged 70
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams looks concerned as Arya Stark
tv
Arts and Entertainment
photography Incredible images show London's skyline from its highest points
Arts and Entertainment
'Silent Night' last topped Classic FM's favourite Christmas carol poll in 2002
classical
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all