On a Wednesday evening, clattering dishes and conversation spill from the open doors of Silvio’s Organic Pizza. But other unexpected sounds float above this typical restaurant melody — the strings of a cello duet played by members of Classical Revolution Ann Arbor, a group whose mission is to bring classical music to a larger audience while emphasizing the importance of a casual atmosphere.
Classical Revolution Ann Arbor: “Bach in Brazil”
Sunday at 8 p.m.
“Part of this whole thing is to bring the music to the people,” said Mark Haynes, a Ph.D. student and a cellist in the group. “There’s no reason that this type of music shouldn’t be played in public. Why should people have to get dressed up, pay 80 bucks and sit uncomfortably?”
The original Classical Revolution was the inspiration of Chereth Premawardhana, the principle violist for the San Francisco Conservatory. He was inspired by an impromptu collaboration that took place with Ed Baskerville, now a third-year grad student at the University, at the Revolution Café in San Francisco.
The idea of making chamber music available to everyone spread like wildfire, with Classical Revolution chapters sprouting up across the country, and four international chapters in Montreal, Amsterdam, Berlin and Toronto. Later on, Baskerville decided to open a Classical Revolution chapter in Ann Arbor when he moved back for grad school.
Locally, Classical Revolution Ann Arbor plays weekly at Silvio’s Organic Pizza on North University Street, with a few more formal concerts here and there, including an upcoming performance entitled “Bach in Brazil” at Goodnight Gracie’s this Sunday.
“It’s fun because it’s low key,” Haynes said. A graduate of the School of Music, Theatre & Dance, he uses Classical Revolution as a way to keep music in his life.
Members like Haynes and Baskerville are dedicated to the group because they think it’s necessary to provide an alternative to the formal chamber music world.
“We think this music is really awesome,” Baskerville said. “And we know everybody doesn’t think it is, but we think that a lot of people out there would take to it more than they have in the past because they haven’t seen it up close and personal.”
Just like the first legendary impromptu performance that took place in San Francisco, the weekly concerts are performed without rehearsing or planning ahead of time.
“After we see who shows up, then we look at what music we could possibly play,” Haynes said. “So depending on who comes, we choose between quartets and trios … and by the end of the evening, it’s usually just a bunch of cellos left over playing duets.”
The group also keeps things casual by avoiding official membership or commitment. According to Baskerville, member attendance at performances ranges from two to 17, with more than 40 people playing throughout the year.
In February, musicians from the Cleveland Orchestra joined the group for an evening’s performance. After playing on Feb. 8 at Hill Auditorium, the orchestra was scheduled to travel to Chicago the following day, but the momentous snowstorm that evening kept them in Ann Arbor.
“The only thing for them to do was to come to Silvio’s and play chamber music with us,” Baskerville said. “We probably had 20 members of the orchestra here — the conductor showed up, one of the pianists played … That was a crazy night.”
Despite that brush with fame, members of Classical Revolution see music as more of a hobby than a career, and wish to continue their musical interests in playing for the Ann Arbor community.
“There’s a lot of great classical music out there in the world,” Baskerville said. “This isn’t about trying to make a chamber music career, but it’s about doing our own local, sustainable music production.”