Top Five Spots for a Surprise Serenade

Friday, March 11, 2011

It’s becoming increasingly typical to see classical musicians perform in clubs like Le Poisson Rouge, The Stone, and Issue Project Room. But it still is surprising to walk into a dive bar to the tune of La Traviata’s drinking song, “Libiamo ne' lieti calici,” or listen to a sublime Mozart piano concerto while waiting for a train. Here are our Top 5 @ 105 surprise corners to listen to some classical tunes.

1. Kaarin Von, the proprietor of Von Bar, indulges her passion for classical music at her East Village wine bar. "I was a classically trained singer in a previous life," she admits. Choral music doesn't go over too well with the clientele, so she sticks to chamber music. Chopin and Boccherini are on regular rotation in the off hours.

2. “Freddy's Bar and Backroom is still divey, though not as much as it used to be,” says Anne Ricci, general manager of Opera on Tap, which has been taking opera out of the houses and into the New York nightlife since 2005. The group performs at several bars such Barbès and the Parkside LoungeFreddy’s, located in Park Slope, celebrates its divey-ness as much as it promotes cultural offerings and remains Ricci’s top pick.

3. Mention the Burp Castle and a sophisticated beer-tasting bar doesn’t necessarily come to mind. Nonetheless, this monument to Belgian ale worship in the East Village often plays Gregorian chant and other medieval music to go with the meditative mood. “[The chants] go well with the atmosphere—murals of monks drinking on the walls,” says owner Gary Gillis.

4. Penn Station and Port Authority may be using classical music to scare off hooligans*, but that's not the aim of Chelsea Market. which engages trios and quartets to play on weekend afternoons. Live music usually floods the hallways already packed with shoppers. The crowds made the space perfect for an impromptu bottle performance by eight undercover actors. (The resulting YouTube clip went viral last summer, though it’s been taken offline since.)

5. Washington DC may have Joshua Bell playing in its Metro stations, but New York subway buskers include talented musicians as well. Conservatory students will sometimes head underground to practice performances while earning some change on the side. Opera on Tap once mobbed the Bryant Park Station and straphangers leaving Lincoln Center will be familiar with a saxophonist who serenades concertgoers with highlights from the event they just heard. 

* Bonus choice: Penn Station doesn’t lend itself for quiet listening with its continual hectic pace and constant bustle. But the New Jersey Transit terminal, the most recently renovated part of the underground commuter hub, pipes in steady stream of Mozart concertos and symphonies. It may be meant to as a crime deterrent but it’s an aural treat for the rest of us.


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Comments [6]

Julie from NY, NY

On most Wednesday evenings (7-9PM) at the Underground Bar/Restaurant (@107th St. & WEA) you can often hear concert pianist, James Rosenblum, play a variety of pieces by composers from Gershwin to Beethoven and Franck. Check him out, he's great!!

Mar. 15 2011 06:09 PM
Taylor from Brooklyn

Freddy's is in Park Slope. The Parkside Lounge in in the Lower East Side.

Mar. 14 2011 11:32 AM
Ted from Manhattan

Seems like every time I go the the Port Authority building I hear W.A. Mozart being piped in.

Mar. 12 2011 11:34 AM
yichihara from NJ

Please allow me one more thing. You might also be interested in Nodame Cantabile. It was an extremely popular Japanese manga from 2001 to 2009, which surprisingly generated tens of thousands of young classical music fans among Japanese. Later it was also TV dramatized in 2006 and then cinematized in 2009. In order to attract younger generations, classical music needs more exposure at casual settings. Should not be confined in concert halls and recording studios. Digital, social media such as YouTube and facebook have made great contribution in that sense. There should be more ways to promote the beauty of classical music from generation to generation.

Mar. 12 2011 01:54 AM
yichihara from NJ

Yeps! I've been aware that increasingly younger classical musicians are performing at clubs, live houses like these. Remember? Akiko Myer did perform at Le Poisson Rouge last fall when she released her last album. And yes, I came across students of music a couple of times at Union Sqare and 42nd Grand Central stations, including a quite impressive mezzo soprano.

Mar. 12 2011 01:03 AM
Silversalty from Brooklyn

New York ballet, alfresco -

Mar. 11 2011 08:08 PM

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