For years, critics have been bemoaning the increasing average age of classical music concert attendees. They worry that the candlelight of classical music, once so bright, is beginning to flicker.
While silver hair may dominate in gilded concert halls, there’s an unexpected place you might find a more youthful and lively group of classical music fans.
Down the pub.
It was with great delight that I learned of two wonderful recurring events, Polyphony Down the Pub and Counterpint. I first read about them in this blog post in Luis Henriques’s early music blog (check it out!).
London pubs are the common venues for these events—singers sign up and gather at the appointed (appinted?) place and time and sing Renaissance polyphony…to the delight (and possibly confusion, though I hope not consternation) of non-singing pubgoers.
Sometimes you just have to take polyphony into your own hands.
I cannot tell you how much I want to be in London right now. And I don’t even drink beer.
But here’s another option for up-close-and-personal classical music: Groupmuse.
This US company matches young classical musicians with hosts who hold concerts for 10 to 50 people in their own homes. An audience member might pay as little as $10 for the ultimate front row seat (or couch). The first set is always classical music; the second set is the performer’s choice. Soloists and quartets can be booked. An article describing this service states that the typical audience consists of mostly millennials.1
Gray hair? None in sight.
Classical music is far from dead. But the market is evolving—not everyone has access to a concert hall, or can afford to go to one. Not everyone wants to. Online streaming has made it possible not only to hear the piece of music we want, but to hear that music played by the specific performer we’d like to hear (without the extraneous noise of crinkling candy wrappers, cell phones, or coughing—ok, with the exception of the Horowitz in Moscow live recording before a seemingly tubercular audience—or Glenn Gould’s humming). So live performance producers need to be more creative to meet the changing demands of the market.
We are already seeing this in the live streaming of concerts and operas and their availability on demand, as well as in the proliferation of small groups of music makers, local opera companies, and local symphony orchestras. And I expect this trend will continue to expand.
There once was a time when only kings could summon musicians, only royalty could afford concerts. Those days are gone.
¡Viva la revolución!
- Toffler, Alvin, The Third Wave. New York: William Morrow & Co, Inc., 1980, Chapter 13 “De-Massifying the Media,” in particular, pp 144-153.
Image attribution: Image from press kit of International Beer Day, http://internationalbeerday.com/press-kit/.