The London Concertante Chamber Ensemble are performing in Edinburgh this weekend at St. Giles Cathedral. As the name suggests, they're a group of musicians from London with a passion for Chamber music, they have travelled the globe with tours to the Middle East, USA, France, Finland and Spain. We spoke to Sean Morris to find out what the Ensemble are really like before their show.
You’re performing in St. Giles cathedral, does performing in a cathedral change the acoustics of the concert?
Performing in Cathedral’s is our usual gig. Sometimes we play in ‘proper’ concert halls like Cadogan, Usher, or St. George’s Halls, but it isn’t our mainstay. Different cathedral’s have different challenges though, particularly acoustically. Sometime the more aesthetically beautiful ones don’t necessarily have the most handy acoustics! Luckily, St. Giles’s has both. Its a very kind place to play, which means pretty much anywhere you sit it sounds great (it also means the sound carries further!). Sometimes buildings can be to dry where the sound doesn’t carry, or too echoey so its difficult to hear the detail - particularly in fast passages - but St. Giles’s is one of our favourite places to play because its so audience and player friendly!
Your concert on the 1st and 2nd has a great student discount, I’ve noticed this is becoming a trend at many classical music venues, I have attended a concert for as little as £3. With the events looking more appealing to young people have you noticed a change in the composition of your audience?
We have noticed a change in our audience, particularly in urban areas. The country side and more parochial places remain somewhat a challenge however, but that is perhaps because they have an older demographic!
I think classical music is having to change and reach out to a younger audience in a different way. Not necessarily because it's less attractive musically than other forms of music, but perhaps because it retains an heir of elitism and expensiveness (something that stems more from the opera house than the concert hall I think). Young people have less money and more worries than say 30 years ago, especially when the current government seems to be putting seemingly ever increasing economic pressure and responsibility on the youth even once they’ve left school! So Classical Music as a whole has to adapt to a shifting market - we need an audience, but also play this music because we, like any artist, believe in it and want to share it. The sad thing is that the more cuts that are made to the arts, the more reliant even large orchestras become on public funding and tickets.. but we try where we can. We want everyone to love this music and we need to make it accessible without targeting just one economic class or generation of people!
Is there still more that could be done to change the composition of your audience?
I think this leads on from my previous answer. There is still work to be done. The average age of our audience tends to be between 30-50, i.e. people that have perhaps found their feet economically, thinking about or have a family etc. But we remember what it was like to be young. While we’re not naive enough to think all young people would come if tickets were just £2 (one’s basic musical taste obviously has a role to play!), but we do think if you come along you’ll enjoy it. We have begun this student ticket scheme fairly recently, and have plans in the future for further outreach and perhaps even bigger more regular discounts at large venues like St.Giles’s or Cadogan Hall in London.
Education if the best way to tackle change and progression in such an issue as addressing the perception of classical music from those under 21, but the best way to get them in firstly is to be down to earth and start lowering prices.
If you could include any non-classical instrument into your chamber ensemble what would it be?
Hmmm… well sometimes we’ve had an accordion in quite regularly a few years ago to play some Tango! (Chris the musical director has a big thing for Latin American music). Personally I’d enjoy an electric guitar and bass playing through some Bach cello suites (but I think thats been done on youtube somewhere already!)
Do you have any opportunities for younger people to get involved with the London Concertante?
Aside from the ticket prices, this year we have opened an initiative for young film/media and sound engineering students to record and edit our concerts. For a number of years we have received many requests from uni students looking for professional quality musicians for their coursework and this year thought we’d make a thing of it. Apparently classical music offers different challenges to most music, so we’re happy to help! Several times a year we visit primary schools in our local area in London and do ‘introductions to music’ and fun workshops and the like. In terms of more developed musicians in their late teens we have plans in place for rehearsal days and chamber music masterclasses from 2018 onwards, which you’ll probably see come to life during our planned Seven Sins of Tango project next year!
When you are not rehearsing what music would you prefer to listen to; classical or contemporary?
Personally, I listen to all sorts when I’m away from rehearsals. Mostly its bebop jazz, big band crooners or Hip Hop. Our MD loves a bit of Latin America and Laura Marling, and our soloist for the evening at St. Giles’s, Ben Norris, has a MASSIVE thing for 90’s pop and Whitney Houston ballads! I’m not sure you’d catch many of us listening to classical music on our phones or iPods walking around!
You’ve performed at some festivals and clubs- is this a very different experience to that of your more common venues like St. Martin-in-the-Fields?
I think performing is the same wherever you go, just with some slight variations. But Festivals are always exciting, the audience is always a bit more raucous and loud in their appreciation. I’ve never been a big fan of sitting silently for ages and waiting 25/30 mins to clap. If you like it, show it, and if you have a drink in your hand, all the better! Maybe its why live jazz is sometimes more appealing as a social occasion.. !
The London Concertante will be performing on the 1st and 2nd December in St. Gile’s Cathedral, Edinburgh.