Hey, DJ, have you got the 1812?

If you like your Bach and Britten but are fed up with stuffy concert halls, then a new event could be playing your tune. Alice Jones reports
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The Independent Culture

"This isn't for you," sneers the press release, adding the silhouette of a sombre-suited man for good measure. Another week and another exclusive club night is launched in über-trendy Hoxton, in east London. But This Isn't For You, or, to use its text-message-friendly acronym, TI4U, which opens tonight at Shoreditch Town Hall, is different - more Mahler than Mylo. Clubbers will be tapping their toes and maybe even waving their hands in the air to a mix of Bach and Britten at the first classical-music night.

The monthly event aims to knock the stuffiness out of the classical music experience. An hour-long live programme will be "book-ended" by classical-music DJs, all set against "ambient film backdrops". There will be no seats, allowing clubbers to wander freely to the adjoining bar and, gasp, take their drinks with them into the main performance room. Wigmore Hall it ain't.

TI4U is the brainchild of the musician-turned-impresario Matt Fretton, who was spurred on by "the baleful state" of classical music. "It perplexed me," he says, "all the arts are interesting to people, apart from classical music, which seems to worry them." Fretton's untraditional approach stems from his pop background. In the Eighties he toured as the opening act for Depeche Mode, Eurythmics and the Boomtown Rats, signing to Chrysalis and releasing his album, It's So High, in 1983.

With TI4U, he hopes to recreate the excitement and atmosphere of a pop concert. "I thought, I'd love not to have to sit in a row. I hate all that not knowing when you're meant to clap. It's silly. If you don't know what a concerto is, how do you know when to clap? But does that mean you can't enjoy the music?"

Oliver Condy, editor of BBC Music Magazine, agrees: "Music is off-putting sometimes, because you're a captive audience. With art, if you don't like a piece, you can move from one picture to the next. If you're in a concert hall, you've got no choice. If you don't like the music, you can leave in the interval, but you always feel slightly guilty and rude."

The chosen venue for TI4U is key in the creation of a relaxed but buzzing atmosphere. Shoreditch Town Hall has undergone a £2.3m refurbishment and meets Fretton's criteria - standing-room only, good acoustics ("it has about four seconds of reverberations, like a chapel"), a bar, and a "strange elegance". "It doesn't look like a classical venue, nor does it look like a nightclub. It's like going into a room that time forgot." The photographer Sussie Ahlburg's moving images will add to the unusual ambience.

Hard-core classical clubbers might argue with TI4U's billing as London's first classical club-night. Chiller Live, a spin-off from Classic FM's Chiller Cabinet show, enjoys a regular slot at Notting Hill Arts Club. Taking its cue from the Tonhalle Orchestra in Zurich, which plays late-night concerts followed by "electro-parties" complete with dance-floor and chill-out lounge, Chiller Live runs from 6pm to 1am, progressing from contemporary classical to electronica and ambient DJs. However, TI4U is the only purely classical club night.

The first TI4U features music by Bach, Britten and Webern, alongside Steve Reich and Gyorgy Kurtag. "I want to put Bach into a kaleidoscope and see what patterns emerge when other colours are added," says Fretton.

Many of the musicians involved are young. "They're ordinary people who listen to pop music, play jazz and go out to clubs", says Fretton. "You don't have to be a weirdo to listen to or perform classical music."

Alina Ibragimova, a 20-year- old violinist performing tonight, is one of these "ordinary people". Currently on BBC Radio 3's New Generation scheme, like the audience, Ibragimova is entering unknown territory. "I've never played to a standing audience before", she says. "I guess it will be a very different audience to that at the Queen Elizabeth Hall."

It will be a novel experience, too, for Eleanor Wilson, the DJ for the launch night. By day, she works as a production and licensing manager for the classical-music label Hyperion. By night, as a classically trained violinist, she plays in a band and DJs for indie nights. This is her debut as a classical DJ. "I thought it couldn't be that different from DJing pop," she muses, worryingly. "I won't play a whole symphony. I might bung in a few movements, maybe an aria."

Her set will take in a Beethoven string quartet, Vaughan Williams's Five Mystical Songs, Philip Glass film scores, and even some medieval music by Hildegard of Bingen. "I'm not going chronologically, I'm going to mix it up." In true crowd-pleasing spirit, Wilson will also do requests. "If I haven't got it with me this time, I'll try and bring it along next time," she says.

Despite the "yoof-friendly" moniker, Fretton isn't banking on attracting that many cool kids. His target audience is simply "people who are interested in the arts, but somehow classical music has always presented a closed door to them". Keith Clarke, editor of Classical Music magazine, welcomes such approachability. "Many people in this business say that only one way of doing something is right, but let's be all-inclusive," he says, adding that, unfortunately, such nights are often "past his bedtime".

So who, exactly, isn't TI4U for? "At a concert, at the end of a movement, say, someone might start clapping. A whole load of disapproving idiots will turn round and stare them out. That person may feel like a fool and never go to a classical concert again," says Fretton. "I don't want those idiots to come. They can stay at home and clap in the right places."

This Isn't for You, Shoreditch Town Hall, EC1 ( www.ti4u.co.uk) 8-10.30pm, tonight

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