Much like jazz, classical music is often seen as daunting or in some way elitist. Classical Sheffield, a collaborative group including Music in the Round, Sheffield City Hall and many others, is looking to change this misconception through its annual Classical Weekend, which comes to Sheffield on 17-19 March. Gina Walters at Music in the Round told me more.
What are the origins of Classical Weekend?
We often hear Sheffield being referred to as ‘Music City’ – The Human League, Jarvis, Arctic Monkeys, Richard Hawley, Tramlines and a thriving local scene – but there is a huge proportion of the city’s music making that we feel is not being recognised. In 2014, Classical Sheffield was created to act as an umbrella for all the classical music happening across the city. We support choirs, orchestras, composers, professionals and amateurs, as well as the variety of styles of music on offer. The first Classical Weekend was in 2015, a vibrant two-day celebration of the talent we have in the city.
What can people expect from this year’s programme?
An opportunity to discover. You don’t need to know who Boulez was or what a Chinese Zither is. You don’t need to know how to pronounce ‘Arvo Pärt’ or know the difference between a violin and a viola.
If you’ve never felt the power of a full live orchestra, go and see Beethoven’s Fifth. You can even sit in the orchestra for that one. If you’re a classical music buff, support local contemporary composers Platform 4, who are doing weird and wonderful things across the festival. And if you’ve got young children, we strongly encourage you to bring them along, especially as under 18s attend for free.
Tell us about the closing gig at Yellow Arch.
On Sunday 19 March from 5pm, there will be nine concerts across two stages, as well as free music in the courtyard, street food and a relaxed, after-party vibe. Highlights include world music collective Kabantu, the young, dynamic Marmen String Quartet, and Copland’s ‘Appalachian Spring’.
This is not just a case of, ‘Let’s put classical music in a cool space’. The way Yellow Arch embrace diversity in music as a venue and as promoters makes them an ideal addition to our festival. The support and enthusiasm they have shown tells me that classical music should be recognised alongside other live music happening in the city. It can be and should be accessible to all.
What are your other picks of the festival?
The UK Premiere of John Luther Adams’ ‘Canticles of The Sky’ with Olly Coates at Kelham Island Museum on Saturday 18 March will be an experience like no other. I am giddy about it. Minimalism fans should head to see Lizzie Ball perform Arvo Pärt’s iconic piece ‘Fratres’ on the Saturday evening.
We have three concerts of Chinese music from the world’s top traditional Chinese musicians. That’ll be new for many people I suspect – myself included. Try out different instruments for free in Channing Hall and stumble across free pop-up music in the Winter Garden, the Moor and the Antiques Quarter. Even if you’re convinced classical music is simply not your thing, pop in and take a listen. The music might just persuade you otherwise.
Individual concert tickets for Classical Weekend are priced at £5, plus a 10% booking fee. Under 18s go free.