Even in this all-casual, all-the-time era of arts consumption, classical music manages to maintain an unshakable veneer of formality. While there's something aesthetically appealing about the popular image of classical performances as high-toned events with opera glasses, tuxes and tails, in truth the form is far more accessible and approachable than the movies would have you believe.
That's part of the thinking behind the St. Paul Classical Music Crawl, a chance for fans and novices alike to get an up-close look at what the Minnesota classical scene has to offer. The one-day event incorporates 28 "mini-concerts" by classical artists of all stripes at 10 locations throughout St. Paul's Lowertown neighborhood, including art galleries, restaurants, theaters and more. Presented in conjunction with the annual St. Paul Art Crawl, the Classical Music Crawl invites visitors to either plan their own walking itineraries or join a tour guided by a classical music host from Minnesota Public Radio.
Music Crawl organizer Marc Levine, an accomplished violinist and founding member of the baroque chamber music ensemble Flying Forms, says he wants the festival to showcase St. Paul’s classical scene as a thriving community. “I often feel like people are fans of individual groups or even a handful of groups, but feel they are separate entities each in their own box. I wanted people to see that there is a vibrant scene of classical music in St. Paul. If people think about things from that perspective, meaning that they see their favorite groups as part of a whole, then I think that they are more likely to find out about new groups and concerts they might not have noticed before.”
“The main goal of the Music Crawl is to give people a chance to meet and hear our community,” Levine said. “With so many groups participating it would be impossible to hear everyone in one day if we scheduled full-length concerts. Short sets allow for audience members to hear as many groups as possible. The idea was inspired by short movies in museums that repeat over and over - if you arrive in the middle you could stick around to hear the beginning.”
Another key aim for the Music Crawl is to grab the attention of casual listeners who might not ordinarily seek out classical music.
“When I perform, audience members often tell me that they enjoyed the concert, but that they aren't experienced listeners - as if to say that they aren't qualified to judge the performance,” Levine said. People who don't go to concerts regularly seem to not trust their own instincts about if they thought something was good. I think that if you hear music and liked it, then it was good! You don't have to be an expert or even have any knowledge of music at all to be moved by something beautiful.”
Asked for specific artist recommendations, Levine admits he can’t pick a favorite. “I would recommend every performance in the Music Crawl as appealing. Some music will appeal to some more than others, but that is a matter of personal taste. With open minds and ears, a listener can allow themselves to be transported to new places, discover long-lost feelings, explore soundscapes, have their passions roused, and much more. That's what makes music so great and classical music, in particular, does this very well. For us, there is nothing better.”
The St. Paul Classical Music Crawl takes place from 12 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 10, at various locations throughout Lowertown. For a full listing of venues and performers, visit saintpaulclassical.com.