Justin Lee is on a mission to change the way younger audiences feel when they go to a classical concert.
The director of Cambridge Music Festival – at the launch of this year’s programme in November – is concerned by research that suggests people under 30 going to a classical concert for the first time feel unsure about the reserved nature of the audience, and how to behave.
He wants the festival to appeal to more listeners; those who like to mix up their music and prefer live events more relaxed than a traditional concert.
“If someone wanted to see classical music in Cambridge done differently, I wouldn’t really know where to point them,” said Justin. “One thing we’re trying to ask with the festival is, ‘does it have to be that way?’”
Justin points to the growing number of people under 30 who are streaming classical music – up 42% last year – and listening to it via the radio. But just 7% of audiences are in this age group.
He suggests part of the problem is that concerts often feel conventional, in programming and presentation.
Th festival runs from 6 to 14 November and among Justin’s festival highlights is saxophonist Amy Dickson’s performance of Philip Glass music for the violin, using circular breathing. “On a violin, it’s possible to create the continuous figures that Glass wrote. On a saxophone, you’ve got to breathe. She’s playing a wind instrument and breathing in at the same time, which is pretty amazing.”
Catch that on 7 November at Emmanuel United Reformed Church and at the same venue on the 14th Trio Manouche, inspired by the Parisian swing of the Hot Club, play the music of Django Reinhardt, arrangements of swing icons like Nat King Cole and their own material.
“This should be more like a pop concert than a classical performance,” Justin said. “It’s really vibrant, feel-good music, with banjo, violin and accordion.”
Leading experimental pianist Zubin Kanga plays the Mumford Theatre on 13 November. He focuses on new technologies, including film, AI, motion capture, animation and virtual reality.
“What Zubin Kanga does simply doesn’t conform to most people’s notions of classical music. Most probably aren’t even aware that it’s being done,” says Justin.
The Choir of King’s College and the Academy of Ancient Music join forces at the college chapel on the 6th to perform Handel’s Coronation Anthems.
“These anthems were performed at King George II’s coronation in 1727 and were an immediate hit. The most famous, Zadok the Priest, has been performed at every British coronation since – not to mention the inspiration behind the Champions League football anthem. This will tingle the spine and lift the spirits.”