Arts & Culture

Playing the Classics

Surprising venues host classical music series.

It’s another Saturday night at Joe Squared: The beer is flowing, the pizzas are square, and Yoshi Horiguchi is in the middle of the crowd, tearing up a version of Bach’s “Cello Suite No. 2 in D minor” on his double bass. Not exactly what you’d expect, but there’s an insurgency of sorts going on here. Credit Classical Revolution Baltimore.

The organization started in San Francisco nearly a decade ago, as a way for classical musicians to get their acts out of stuffy concert halls and into more populist venues—bars, coffee shops, art galleries. Peabody grad Rafaela Dreisin introduced the revolution, which is now active in over 30 cities worldwide, to Baltimore in 2010. Since then, she and cohort Stephanie Ray have organized more than 75 free concerts in locations from Mt. Vernon Park to Liam Flynn’s Ale House. The group holds a monthly residency at Joe Squared cheekily dubbed “Drunk Bach.”

For Dreisin, a trumpet player who works for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s OrchKids program, it’s all about exposing open minds to her beloved craft. “I grew up being taken to classical music concerts by my parents, but none of my friends were ever interested,” she says. “I always thought they would really like it if it was presented to them in a different way.”

The musicians themselves—a rotating mix of recent grads from area music programs—appreciate the nontraditional venues as much as the audience does. “It’s definitely different than playing in a quiet concert hall,” says Horiguchi, who serves as principal bassist with the Hopkins Symphony Orchestra. “Performing in front of a reactive audience is like eating a different cuisine, but I like the variety. Sometimes you want Chinese, sometimes you want pizza.”

And sometimes you want a little Bach with your pizza.