Unusual Performance Venues

Monday, April 26, 2010 - 06:53 AM

Tonight at 8 o'clock, WQXR offers a Web cast--a broadcast exclusively on our Web stream at WQXR.org--of a concert by the Emerson String Quartet.

They're playing Beethoven, Dvorak, Janacek, and others. The event is a CD release party for their new album, Old World - New World, and a preview of their May series at Lincoln Center. 

What makes this performance unusual is the venue: (Le) Poisson Rouge, the club that occupies the building that used to be the Village Gate. (Le) Poisson Rouge's motto is "Serving Art & Alcohol," and the place has very much a jazz-club feel. They present a lot of classical music there. As you listen to the webcast tonight, you're very likely to hear some clinking of glasses, and maybe, far in the background, a blender mixing a cocktail.

It's an unusual place to hear classical music, compared to the long-standing tradition of concert-hall performances, but it's certainly not without precedent in history. Mozart's serenades and divertimentos, for example, were written for to be played at weddings or other convivial gatherings, and any compositions with the label "tafelmusik" were likely created for performance during a dinner--exactly what the term "table music" suggests. Still, a nightclub is an out-of-the-ordinary concert setting, which makes me wonder: What's the most unusual venue where you have heard classical music performed?

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Comments [10]

Kenneth Bennett Lane from Lake Hiawatha, NJ

there is a story of the great pianist Benno Moisevitch, who, down on his luck, played at restaurants with an active bar clientele, who were not above freely announcing in full voice their own critique of the music played. One such memorable event was when one of the customers shouted, "That's nothing! I heard Moisevitch do it a lot better!" The "loud mouth" was then informed by someone on the adjoining bar stool, "That IS Moisevitch" I, myself, in my earlier days sang at Bianchi and Margherita's off Sheridan Square in Greenwich Village, New York. I am, and was, a Wagnerian heldentenor. I sang opera arias, "pop", jazz, golden oldies and folk music. Unlike Asti's the singers, three of us, never waited on tables. We just sang to piano accompaniment. Many celebrities were regulars, including Irving Caesar (lyricist for "Tea for Two" and "Swanee") John Gambling and his son John Gambling, Jr. of WOR radio fame, May Singhi Breen, who devised the guitar accompaniments printed on sheet music and in song anthologies; her husband was Peter de Rose, composer of "Deep Purple" and many, many others from opera, Broadway and "pop" music celebrity.

May. 05 2010 02:37 PM
Robert Jones

Remember the free concerts they used to have a few times a year at the Botanical Gardens? I thought that was a great setting for concerts.

May. 01 2010 02:37 PM
Jeff Dimmerman from New York

The Graffe String Quartet recently played Haydn, Mendelssohn & Mica in the underground Punkva Caves in Moravia.

See photos at:


Apr. 29 2010 12:32 PM
Ed Reiskind, Jr., from CAB ON JOHN STREET


Apr. 28 2010 01:51 PM
Judith Gorman

Some years ago, I was boarding a plane, and noticed that the behavior of my fellow passengers was unusually calm, unhurried, yet still efficient. The explanation? The plane's audio system was piping in Bach. What a difference!

Apr. 26 2010 10:19 AM
Karen Johnson from WQXR online

Good Morning,
Having moved recently from Bergen County, NJ, I listen daily to WQXR online in the Harrisburg, PA area, and appreciate it very much.

My love of classical music was fostered in a tiny Mayan village in the remote mountains of Guatemala, where my parents were missionaries for 46 years. My dad had reel-to-reel tapes, which he played every evening. I fell asleep to the great classical artists every night I was home.

Because of our parents' remote location, we children attended a small boarding school for the children of missionaries in another part of the country. A treasured memory of my middle school years was, on two or three occasions, taking a 4-hour country bus trip over narrow mountain roads from school to Guatemala City, arriving just in time to begin the weekend or school vacation with a Friday night concert of the Guatemala Symphony Orchestra.

Perhaps the most unique place I heard classical music live was a chamber music quartet who performed in the midst of the ruins of an old church in the ancient Guatemalan city of Antigua. The acoustics in that domed grotto were incredible. Just on the other side of the wall one could hear the hustle and bustle of a busy Central American town, but inside that ruined church, the music was magical.

Not bad for a child whose parents were devoted to the needs of poor in a war-torn land! I am very thankful!

Karen Johnson

Apr. 26 2010 10:10 AM
Phil Pennino from Watchung, New Jersey

As a preteen I was enthralled with the sci-fi tv program "Flash Gordon" starring Buster Crab. It was this show that cemented my love for classical music; for, I believe, the entire musical score was List's "Le Preludes" and to this day I wax wonderfully nostalgic when hearing the work. I am still thankful to the unknown person who made that mucical choice for an unlikely format. Phil Pennino Watchung, NewJersey

Apr. 26 2010 09:53 AM
Laurie Aron from New York City

The loveliest place I've heard classical music was at the Place des Vosges (vozh) in Paris. It was under the arcade of this square of 17th century homes, which feels like being in the center of a castle, that a chamber group was playing baroque music for whatever you'd throw into the violin case. Children were playing on the grass. Cups were clinking in the cafe. People were plying their way around the arcade looking into shops. The musicians were unaffected by any of the distractions, and played as if they were playing for the king

Apr. 26 2010 09:50 AM
Ken Thompson from NYC

The most unusual place I have ever heard classical music performed was at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, while I was on a rafting trip down the Colorado River.

Apr. 26 2010 09:46 AM

While running in the Burlington, Vermont marathon several years ago, I saw and heard a pianist playing a Chopin nocturne on the shore of Lake Champlain- no, really! This was before the hallucinations of dehydration set in.

Apr. 26 2010 09:46 AM

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