Monday at City Winery, 8:00 PM
Yellow Lounge is not a place, but an idea; an out of the box experience in a sleek urban space. Crowds relish music that takes them on a journey, and then dancing to a DJ’d set a little later. These classical-meets-club shows have torn it up in Berlin, London, Amsterdam, Vienna, and Seoul. The instigator, Universal Music Classics just made the jump across the Atlantic for evenings in LA, and New York. Yellow Lounge comes to Chicago’s City Winery on Monday night at 8:00 PM with guitar sensation, Miloš; the Spektral Quartet, and DJ Chris Widman.
WFMT’s Noel Morris checked in with Doyle Armbrust, violist of the Spektral Quartet, about the shows:
You guys have already played some clubs around town. What’s it like? Are you getting a lot of first-timers? Are they asking questions?
Pretty much my favorite thing that happens at bar/lounge shows is the (roughly) 3-4 people that come up afterward and tell me that they were just out for a drink, stumbled upon us, and want to know where they can hear more of this weird, wonderful music. What happens quite a bit at rock clubs is that the band that follows us raises an eyebrow when they see a string quartet sound-checking, but then have an endless battery of questions once they’ve heard us play. For Spektral, those few, new sets of ears at each show are what we live for. I know it’s why I drop in at places like the Empty Bottle without bothering to check who’s playing that night…you never know what you’re going to discover.
Doyle, you’ve had a LOT of experience at this point with different organizations’ efforts to “break down the barriers.” First of all, define the barriers. Secondly, what if any seems to work?
The so-called “barriers” are in large part a self-fulfilling narrative. The CSO does pizza and beer after its MusicNow shows, so even the larger institutions have reached out beyond the suit-and-tie crowd. As I see it, the barriers come down to sneering. Sneering at clapping between movements, or dress codes or lack of familiarity with the composers and historical context. All we as a quartet are after is removing any nagging worry an audience member might have about concert protocol, so they can spend all their cerebral and emotional energy on experiencing the music. It doesn’t hurt to have a cocktail in one’s hand, either.
Are the people who come to these things, like Eighth Blackbird concerts, MusicNow, Ensemble dal Niente—is it its own sub-culture or are they also listening to Beethoven and buying tickets to the old school performances? Is there a split between outreach for new music and outreach for standard rep?
I think the perceived division between musics new and old is largely imagined. I don’t think anyone in eighth blackbird or dal niente or Spektral would take issue with my saying that they get just as blissed out by Lachenmann as they do by Schubert. What all of the new musicos in Chicago have in common is an ability to trace the connections, across centuries and genre titles, between the musics of the past and those of the present. They may not program traditional scores regularly, but I don’t see anyadversarial stance toward the traditional canon. At the risk of over-simplification, good music is good music.
What are you playing at Yellow Lounge?
We’re doing our favorite thing: dropping a wide-ranging dose of the music we love on a new crowd. We’re bringing movements of Britten, Verdi and Bartòk quartets as well as two arrangements we particularly love and that were written for us. Chris Fisher-Lochhead’s I Never Learnt to Share is a re-imagining of the James Blake original in which CFL magnifies Blake’s multi-tracked approach to vocals by giving snippets of the melody to each instrument to form a composite, and sumptuous whole. Katherine Young’s arrangement of Arthur Russell’s I’m Hiding Your Present from You is particularly charming, and was a huge hit with the audience at our Chambers album release party.
Have you met or spoken with Miloš yet? Is there music for quartet and guitar that you’ll be playing?
We are excited to be sharing a concert with Miloš and are looking forward to seeing him play live, but we’ll be doing individual sets.
There’s going to be a live DJ thrown into the mix. How do you make a cohesive evening out of that?
Yellow Lounge has been throwing successful classical music parties around the world, and while we don’t know what the DJ’s setlist is going to be, we understand that he’ll be spinning an exclusively classical mix.
Does live DJ’d music speak to you in the way you hope the quartet rep will speak to the DJ crowd?
Make no mistake. The artistry involved in a DJ’s captivating a room, reading the audience and dropping the right beat/tune at just the right time, is legit. It’s a skill that shouldn’t be underestimated. In any case, we just hope he/she includes some new music on the 1’s and 2’s…