WHAT comes to mind when you think of classical music? An orchestra wearing coattails perhaps, vast auditoriums and a slight but perceptible air of formality? For many performances, this isn’t far off. And, whilst there are attempts to make classical music more accessible - from The Stoller Hall hosting comedy to RNCM and Bridgewater Hall’s initiatives for younger visitors - many still consider it a little too ‘highbrow.’
We choose places that are more intimate, places where you don’t have to sit next to someone in a £200 frock
That’s where Manchester Collective comes in, aiming to challenge preconceptions of chamber music with a ‘wildly diverse’ programme in which you’re just as likely to find Bulgarian folk as Beethoven and Strauss.
Comprised of seven classically-trained musicians, its mission - says Artistic Director and General Manager, Adam Szabo - is to broaden the genre’s appeal through a calendar of unusual gigs.
So what’s so different from the rest of Manchester’s classical music scene? Well, for a start, the venues are far from spacious 500-seat halls - the opening season includes gigs at Islington Mill and The Wonder Inn.
Manchester Collective will play at Islington Mill and The Wonder Inn
“There are very few classical concerts in the North West where you can see the whites of the players’ eyes,” says Szabo, a Hungarian cellist, who, following a stint in Sydney, now calls Manchester home. “We choose places that are more intimate, places where you don’t have to sit next to someone in a £200 frock. Our main audience is 25-45 and we believe that everyone should have access to world-class chamber music. All our shows are £12 and students can even attend for free.”
The democracy extends to the collective itself. Despite his ‘director’ title, Szabo insists there’s no hierarchy in the group, which was founded last month. A non-profit organisation, it is supported by the Arts Council and also runs an educational programme teaching primary school children how to compose.
As for the performances, there’s everything from tango to electro-acoustic and 400 years of western composition. Collaborations are also a key feature, as seen in Intimate Letters - presented with the International Anthony Burgess Association to celebrate the author’s centenary. Future seasons, Szabo promises, will also see some ‘exciting guest artists.’
For now, though, the inaugural season offers plenty to be going on with: whether you fancy the Arctic Monkeys re-imagined or sixteenth century depictions of drunken folk songs in a pub. Well, they did call it ‘new and unprecedented’ after all...