A grassroots movement is turning cafes, clothing boutiques and street art festivals into lowbrow chamber music venues. Called a Classical Revolution, this group of volunteer musicians meet and sight-read pieces together all in an effort to provide more exposure of classical music and gain younger listeners and fans.
East Sacramento resident Skye Bergen organizes the seven-month-old chapter. While the group performs mainly in midtown, the musicians hail from all over Sacramento. Many are professional musicians with advanced degrees, and some are currently college students. Many play in multiple bands, ensembles, and orchestras.
They are also the hardest working musicians Bergen has ever met.
With works by Bach to Phillip Glass to Popper to Björk, to local composers, Bergen said she believes the experts should be allowed to play what they know.
“All the musicians in the group are the experts and therefore they should have control over what they want to perform,” she said. For every show, Bergen asks for a volunteer to be a lead musician.
One of the musicians in Classical Revolution, Holly Harrison (also a member of Be Brave Bold Robot), is a general music teacher at Theodore Judah and is starting an orchestra of her own this year. Her program is funded entirely by the PTA: they get no support from the district (other than the use of the music library) or any other outside organization. Many of the students cannot afford to rent instruments so Holly has managed to get some instruments from the school district- but none of them have bows.
So, Bows and Arrows, located at 19th and S St. in midtown, put on a fundraiser on Nov. 27 called “Bows for Bows” to support Theodore Judah elementary school’s music program, since the school’s budding instrumentalists are desperately in need of funds for bows to go with their district instruments and for other supplies such as music books, music stands, rosin, shoulder rests, and all of the other accessories needed to keep a string orchestra going.
Several local musicians and bands featuring string players volunteered their time to play in the benefit: Be Brave Bold Robot (folk rock), The Sweet By and By (bluegrass), and, of course, musicians from Classical Revolution. Student musicians were also featured.
Founded six years ago at Revolution Café in the Mission District of San Francisco, Classical Revolution presented more than 700 chamber music events in more than 90 Bay Area venues with the goal of bringing live chamber music to neighborhoods. The Classical Revolution model has spread around the world, with nearly 30 active chapters around the U.S., Canada, and Europe.
Sacramento is one of the most recent chapters to be established.
Named after the Revolution Café, the founder began putting on chamber jams there. Bergen said a chamber jam is where a bunch of musicians show up and sight-read pieces together. She said that really caught on and thus the name was born.
Locally, Bergen said audience response has been very good, the shows are often standing room only. In fact, she said the turnout at Bows and Arrows was so large that they invited the group back for a monthly gig.
“It’s actually a perfect space- beer and wine, great food, coffee, great space, great art, great people, great location. We couldn’t have asked for a better monthly home,” she said.
The musicians have also performed at Shady Coffee & Tea in Roseville, Insight Coffee, and Luna’s Café.
“We are steadily building a following, which is outstanding. I do worry though that the musicians aren’t getting compensated enough for it. They know it’s volunteer, but we really need more people coming out to support the musicians and to show that support with their wallets,” she said.
While Bergen acknowledges the point is basically outreach and exposure she also wishes they could get a little more out of it — at least enough for the gas that they used to get to the venue.
“They have dedicated their lives to a beautiful art form, and while Classical Revolution is helping to gain an audience that respects them, they deserve to be compensated for their efforts. I want this to happen because I would like to see this continue,” she said.
There are many musicians in the group and all are volunteers.
Here are a few of the ones who play the most often:
Tim Stanly – cello
Cathie Apple- flute
Jennifer Reason- piano
Jia-mo Chen- cello
George Hayes- violin
Rei Luu- violin
Casey Lipka- upright bass
Kim Davis- flute
Coco Cocozella- violin
Alex Winter- cello
Liz Barton- French horn
Holly Harrison- violin
Sondro Ladu- violin
Follow the group on twitter: