Open Classical is a group of musicians looking to change the classical music scene – in North Texas and beyond. KERA’s Shelley Kenneavy got a taste of how these artists share, experiment, socialize, and collaborate.
On a random Tuesday night, I ducked in to Buzzbrews on Lemmon in Dallas for one of their famous coffees and a crepe. And I heard local singer and actress Megan Liles performing “Voi che Sapete” from Mozart’s opera Le Nozze di Figaro.
Opera? In a diner? Turns out, this happens every Tuesday night at Buzzbrews. It’s a Classical Open Mic hosted by a group called Open Classical.
But there’s more than just opera at this open mic. You may hear a flute solo. The emcee plays clarinet accompanied by pianist Thiago Nascimento. And there’s also viola paired with tap dancing.
That’s right. Open Classical’s founder Mark Landson plays Bach on viola while Abi Abel taps out the counter rhythms. He calls it Bach Suites and Two Feet Beats. And it’s a concept he’s developed with tapper Katelyn Harris of Rhythmic Souls Tap Company. Landson says, “It provides a really fresh take on Bach. You know, his genius lives on and can be repurposed in so many different ways.”
Landson calls the Classical Open Mic a sort of laboratory where artists can feel free to create new work without pressure. He explains, “We’re looking at it from the social point of view where we’re taking classical music and it’s acting as a social glue to bind a community together.”
So something like the tap and viola experiment can be honed in front of an audience. And can then be showcased in a curated concert.
In keeping with the open mic tradition, there’s a tip jar. Open Classical has so far funded all of its concerts primarily with the cash collected at the open mics. With the tip money and some private donations, they’ve collected enough to take the act on the road. The group is going on a 30-city tour this summer to drum up support for Landson’s idea for a mid-level chamber music series in alternative venues throughout the United States. He calls it “alternative classical,” and he says, “It’s basically the attempt to create a ground-up movement for classical music that is very different than the top-down structure that every other aspect of classic music has.”
As far as the classical open mic, it’s already expanding in North Texas. Besides the one every Tuesday at Buzzbrews on Lemmon, there’s one every first Monday at Dodies Live in Frisco and twice a month at the Live Oak in Fort Worth. Landson says he’s learned that each area has its own flavor. “Each community determines what it’s going to be. And we can’t wait to bring that outside of the DFW area to Houston and Austin and San Antonio and St. Louis. And New York itself.”
Landson thinks the rest of the country can learn a lot from the music scene in North Texas.
Here’s Katelyn Harris and Mark Landson performing at Open Classical’s open mic: