Introducing our new partner Nonclassical. An interview with Nonclassical’s Executive Director, Eleanor Ward.
Nonclassical is an industry-leader in breaking the rules and bringing classical music to new audiences. Can you tell us a bit about when and why you decided to take this approach?
Nonclassical was founded in 2014 by composer Gabriel Prokofiev, who wanted to present exciting new classical, electronic and experimental music to people who were interested in new music, but would never even think to go to a concert hall. Breaking out of the concert hall tradition, we have since presented over 200 club nights & events, constantly pushing to bring new classical music to new audiences. Our monthly events at The Victoria in Dalston (hidden behind the bookcase…) consist of short sets of no more than 30 mins interspersed by DJs playing originals and remixes.
Nonclassical is all about driving the evolution of new classical music – be it instrumental, vocal, electronic or experimental. We’re interested in pushing the boundaries of what people think is ‘classical music’, and providing opportunities to discover and experience it – both live at our events and recorded via our label.
How have audiences and performers responded to the ‘non-classical’ venues in which you perform? Can you tell us some of your favourites and why?
Audiences and performers have responded positively to the venues in which we’ve performed. Performers love performing in intimate settings (120 capacity) for our monthly nights in Dalston, being able to try out new projects, and engaging with the audience in a way which you can’t in a concert hall setting. The barrier between audience and performer doesn’t exist at our nights – and there are no expectations on how the audience should behave either. They can drink, they can chat, they can come and go as they please – though what is amazing is how boisterous our nights can be, but then how quiet the room becomes when the music starts.
Nonclassical has performed across London and beyond in all kinds of club and gig venues – XOYO, Shacklewell Arms, The Macbeth, Oval Space, Hoxton Bar & Kitchen and the Roundhouse. My favourite venue (though it’s very hard to choose!) was our Rise of the Machines orchestral club night at Ambika P3 (an old concrete testing facility in the bowels of Baker Street). Tracing the influence of machines on classical music, the programme featured Mosolov, Shostakovich, Aphex Twin, Larry Goves and the UK premiere of Gabriel Prokofiev’s Concerto for Turntables, Trumpet and Percussion. We had over 400 in the audience, two thirds were under 35, and the biggest cheer of the night came for Shostakovich 10.
We’ll be at Hackney Showroom on Saturday 15 April for a club night with a difference – featuring the Street Orchestra of London, soloist Jean-Paul Samputu and Nonclassical DJs. Should be a night to remember!
What would you say to somebody coming to hear a Nonclassical performance for the first time, for whom this was their first experience of classical music?
Come with an open mind and open ears. There’s no right or wrong way of listening to music – just come along, enjoy the experience, drink, chat and relax.
Can you tell us a bit about what you have coming up, and your hope / vision for the future of classical club nights is?
Nonclassical has been reflecting a lot recently – on what it’s achieved over the last 10 years and what we want to achieve over the next 10 years. We became a charity 18 months ago, and I was appointed as Executive Director to lead the organisation and bring our live work and record label closer together – with artist development at the core of what we do.
We’ve just had a re-brand and wanted the new logo and creative direction to reflect our attitude to forward-thinking and boundary-pushing music in the 21st century. We’ve also launched an EP series ‘Outside the Lines’ which showcases the diversity and breadth of exciting music that’s happening throughout the contemporary classical music scene – in London and beyond.
Nonclassical is many things, but at the core it’s a platform for developing and promoting exciting new work from emerging artists.