“The Bach is not the problem and the audience is not the problem. The problem is the context,” said Gabriel Gordon, creator and artistic director of NEXT Ensemble, a chamber music collective aiming to change the way audiences think about classical concerts.
“A more traditional concert experience is great but at the same time there is something about it that I think people feel intimidated by,” he said.
Gabriel told me that most people avoid classical music concerts because there’s some confusion about when to clap.
“Which is absurd because you’re taking this whole part of music, fabulous music, out of your life because you don’t know when to do something because of protocol,” he said.
As part of their effort to change minds about classical music, NEXT Ensemble performs monthly at Alleged, a bar and night club located on Ogden’s Historic 25th Street.
“So it really is not your traditional concert experience," Gordon said. "You can sit down at a couch at Alleged and, it’s in Moxie, which if you pass by Moxie during a night when it’s kind of being a club, you’ll see lots of smoke and flashing lights and things like that and you’d look inside and say ‘how could a classical music concerts series take place in there?’ Well, when you take away the smoke and the lights then it actually turns into a perfect little chamber music hall.”
Every style of classical music is unique and of course, each of these styles is best served by its own particular atmosphere.
“But chamber music is just different and one of the things that we love about Alleged and about chamber music in general is that the audience is literally a few feet from the musicians," Gordon said. "You can hear the breathing, you can hear the sweating, you can look at if someone plays out of tune and a musician gets a look over there like what are you doing so the whole thing happens right in front of you.”
The ensemble’s local focus means that some of those breathing, sweating musicians could actually be your neighbors.
“The ensemble itself is really a mix of available freelance musicians, mostly in the Northern Utah area," Gordon said. "One of the things we really want to focus on are the musicians here in Northern Utah, not just in Salt Lake.”
Another important part of NEXT Ensemble’s mission is giving back to the community, which means that a portion of their ticket sales is donated to another organization. For the 2017 season, NEXT is partnering with fellow Ogden organization Youth Impact, which serves youth residing in Ogden’s inner-city neighborhoods.
So what’s Gabriel’s ultimate goal in changing the classical music experience?
“I think it’s important to understand that you’re part of the music,” he said.
You can find more information about NEXT Ensemble here.