David Lister: In a warren of tunnels under Waterloo station, a revolution in classical music is stirring

The Week in Arts

Share

It's not what you do, it's the place where you do it.

Especially, it seems, if you want to bring in a new audience for a traditional art form. I have recently been to the Old Vic tunnels, a splendidly atmospheric warren of rooms way beneath Waterloo station, and saw two classical stars, pianist Alice Sara Ott and violinist Janine Jansen, performing to a young audience, some of whom were in front of the players, others in different rooms watching projections of them on the walls, still others in a different room just chilling, as they say in the best classical conservatoires.

Most were drinking; nearly all were standing. It was a classical concert, but not as we know it. It was classical clubbing with two of the world's great virtuosi providing a stunning backdrop. And, as I suggested a few weeks ago, they chatted to the audience.

This event, called the Yellow Lounge, owed much to the desire of Max Hole – chief operating officer at Universal Music, formerly a rock and pop supremo in the record company – to extend the boundaries of, and certainly the audience for, classical music. But he is not alone. The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment has also been changing the way classical music is delivered.

It has been running late-night, informal concerts aimed at the under-35s. Some were held at London's Roundhouse with screens, but others have been scaled down and held in pubs, with the conductors again talking to the audience about the music, between performing Bach, Purcell and Handel. The OAE even allows people to meet the orchestra through what it describes as a "speed-dating-inspired set-up", which boggles the mind somewhat.

I have advocated screens at classical concerts before, so that the audience can see the conductor's face and close-ups of the musicians. I have also suggested conductors and soloists communicate with the audience. It's good to see both these aspects beginning to take hold. They are, I am sure, the way to bring in a new and younger audience. But it is also becoming rapidly clear that the venue can be as important as the presentation in finding those new listeners.

Theatre and dance impresarios will, I hope, be paying attention. So much attention has been paid, and rightly, to attracting a new, younger audience. And the methods used to attract such an audience have been lower ticket prices (though not nearly low enough), and a repertoire thought to appeal more directly to the age group. But the right venue, and a different style of presentation within that venue, have to be priorities, too.

This year is ending with our most traditional art form being shaken to its core. The Royal Festival Hall and all the other traditional venues across the country will, of course, continue to host traditional concerts, but it is in the pubs and the tunnels that the next generation will be converted to classical music.

You don't need critics to judge the Booker

That fine actor and prodigious tweeter Dan Stevens (Matthew Crawley in Downton Abbey) is a good choice as a member of the Booker Prize judging panel. But I wonder why the chair of the judges, Sir Peter Stothard, described him the other day as "an accomplished literary critic". There's nothing whatsoever wrong in having Stevens as a judge. As an actor and gregarious wit, his views on the year's novels will be refreshing. But tell it like it is. The fact that he happened to read English at Cambridge doesn't make him a literary critic. Sir Peter seems to be showing a little paranoia about people's reactions by trying to make such claims for Stevens. He is an estimable actor. He ain't FR Leavis.

How to make an upstaging exit

Some of the best theatre is to be found in the smaller, studio-style spaces around the country, but they do have one drawback. It is often impossible to leave early without walking across the area where the actors are performing. This is especially true in the case of Michael Sheen's Hamlet, currently playing at the Young Vic in London. I should stress that I would not have dreamt of leaving Ian Rickson's underpraised and tantalising production early. Sheen's performance is magnetic, and the concept of setting it in a mental hospital is intriguing.

But one woman in the audience, when I attended this week, did decide that she would get her train home a little early, and left just as the play was reaching its climax. As people at the theatre do, she assumed that if she crept out on tiptoe nobody would see or hear her. So off she crept across the floor space that was the stage, squeezing past Sheen as his Hamlet took his dying breath. "The rest is silence" – apart from those stilettos.

d.lister@independent.co.uk // twitter.com/davidlister1

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: ASP.NET Developer / Programmer - SQL, MVC, C#

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This distributor and wholesaler...

Recruitment Genius: 2nd Line IT Support Technician

£26000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Business Manager

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This highly successful business...

Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - Bedfordshire - £30,000 + Excellent package

£28000 - £30000 per annum + Bonus, Pension, 25days hol, PHC +: Ashdown Group: ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Here’s why I’m so full of (coffee) beans

Jane Merrick
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn