While attempts are made worldwide to generate new audiences for classical music, a project was initiated by the San Francisco Symphony with its music director Michael Tilson Thomas, which aims to attract new listeners in a nightclub-style environment.
To the venue's website: SOUNDBOX
A. Review: San Francisco Symphony Soundbox Makes Thrilling Debut
A San Jose Mercury News Review
By Georgia Rowe
To the original review:
The classical music establishment has been wringing its hands for years, trying to figure out how to attract younger audiences.
They can stop now. Michael Tilson Thomas has found the solution.
Saturday night, in an out-of-the-way rehearsal-and-storage space behind Davies Symphony Hall, Thomas and a select group of San Francisco Symphony musicians unveiled Soundbox. Tailor-made for the young, hip crowd that has become "serious" music's target audience, it's a venue with the atmosphere of a trendy nightclub and the acoustics of a world-class concert hall. It holds 450 people, and Saturday's opening night performance drew a capacity crowd. It was a night to remember.
With Thomas serving as the exuberant host, the evening recalled a 1960s-era happening. The audience entered past a landscaped area where musicians, playing John Cage's "Branches" for amplified cacti, stood tapping plants with sticks; their performance was streamed live to large video screens and projected in reverberant sound throughout the hall.
Inside the Soundbox were two stages backed by screens. Seating was open; the audience lounged on low cushions or perched on barstools. No printed programs were provided; the title of each work was projected on-screen before it was performed. Milling around was encouraged, and cocktails and appetizers were available at a bar at one end of the room. The concert started at 9, an hour later than most Symphony programs in Davies Hall, and included two leisurely intermissions.
Best of all, the hall -- a cavernous, former acoustical dead zone, according to Thomas -- has been equipped with a custom Sound Constellation system by Berkeley's Meyer Sound. Amplification can be tailored for each specific performance, the conductor explained. In fact, nothing in the Soundbox is fixed. It's a pop-up hall, and everything -- stages, screens, and seating -- will be reconfigured for subsequent performances (the Symphony is currently planning Soundbox programs for January, February, March, and April.)
The crowd -- a decidedly younger mix than the usual Symphony audience -- was right at home with the casual vibe.
In Saturday's program, the results were marvelously fluid. Thomas test-drove the hall like a kid with a new hot rod, and the sounds alternately suggested 14th-century Spain, a New York art loft, Parisian salons, and a cathedral in Venice. The offerings began with "Stella splendens in monte," an anonymous Spanish work (local composer Mason Bates contributed the percussion arrangements.) The chorus, entering through the back of the hall, made a solemn procession to the stage, their voices swelling to fill every corner of the space.
From there, eras and styles were mixed with abandon. SFS Chorus director Ragnar Bohlin drew exquisitely braided sound from the singers in a Kyrie and plainchant by Josquin des Prez, then led the singers in Meredith Monk's chirpy, beguiling 20th century "Panda Chant II." Five SFS percussionists, backed by images of a New York skyline (Adam Larsen created the video images), explored the rhythmic possibilities of Steve Reich's hypnotic "Music for Pieces of Wood." The prerecorded voice of maverick singer Joan La Barbara purred and ululated through the short experimental film, "Voice Windows."
The orchestra has played Ravel's "Introduction and Allegro" before, yet, as revived here by seven SFS musicians, it has never sounded so fragrant, or so intimate; the solo by principal harpist Douglas Rioth was especially lovely. Varese's "Integrales" followed on the adjacent stage, with Thomas leading a boisterous, in-your-face performance.
Thomas brought the evening to a close with a work he described as one of his "all-time favorite pieces," Monteverdi's Magnificat from "Vespro della Beata Vergine," composed in 1610 for the Venice Basilica di San Marco. Leading the orchestra, men's and women's choruses, and vocal soloists, he delivered a performance of opulent beauty. The Symphony's Soundbox may have started as a humble rehearsal space. Here, it sounded like a mighty hall.
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B. San Francisco Symphony Offers Modern Take On Classical Music
By Cy Musiker
C. S.F. Symphony Entices New Audiences With SoundBox Venue
"It’s definitely not your grandmother’s concert hall. People sip their drinks, and perch on cushions or lie on the scarred floor, tweeting, shooting selfies and chatting away until the music starts. And then the crowd of 500 gets as quiet as any audience at a more formal concert".
"Symphony orchestras are among the most traditional of the performing arts. But around the country a few are trying to reinvent themselves, worried that audiences are graying and fading away".
To the full article: S.F. Symphony Entices New Audiences With SoundBox Venue
The California Report
By Cy Musiker
D. Classical Goes Clubbing: SoundBox Makes Timeless Music Feel Brand New
"It takes classical music from all eras and presents it squarely in the modern day, with cocktails, freedom to wander about and phone and tablet use encouraged. It’s the most comfortable way for many to experience classical music. It’s also the perfect date night. And yes, it’s the coolest thing on the block".
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By Gabe Meline
December 15, 2014