Yesterday evening I attended a performance of Canada’s collectif9 – The Classical String Band at the Classical:NEXT conference in Rotterdam. It is an interesting example of how classical music can have a very different appearance with just a few adjustments.
Collectif9 was founded in 2011 and consists of nine string players. The 30min show I saw consisted of short pieces by Brahms, (Gabriel) Prokofiev, Holbrook, Shostakovich and Bartok. Any ensemble can do that, you might say. But the difference was in how it was delivered.
First of all, most of the music was specifically arranged for the ensemble. The original music was taken as a basis to be used by the ensemble and it’s needs. Then it was amplified, which – although taking away some of the traditional quality of life playing – enabled the ensemble to perform in any building and be hearable also when the bar is opened. All musicians were standing (except the celli). And all were moving freely to the music they performed. First and second violins changed positions during the show bringing some additional movement to the show. Every piece was shortly introduced by a different player. And while that player spoke the others already played a kind of introduction in the background, which created a certain suspense and urgency. Something we all know from the world of musicals. The whole presentation was much more pop rather than classical. But still they delivered classical repertoire. Shostakowith included stomping with the feet. And at the end the audience was invited to clap along with the ensemble – which they actually did with pleasure! The show was fresh, dynamic and fun. And yes, they can all play very well. It is a joy to listen to them and their musical interaction is great.
Collectif9 is definitely an example that orchestras and ensembles can learn from. It is a lesson in presentation of classical repertoire where a change in the musician’s mindset and attitude makes all the difference.
More information about collectif9 can be found here.