Filmmaker David Donnelly is on a mission to keep classical music relevant. For him it’s all about the genre’s ability to bring together history and personal experience.
“Something may have been composed centuries ago, but then you hear it and it feels like it was written for you, and that’s this continuum of human civilization,” Donnelly said.
To highlight this continuum Donnelly is launching his project Not So Classical here in St. Louis. The multimedia performance will include roughly five minute performances by violinist and Constella founder Tatiana Berman and Grammy-nominated Saxophonist Amy Dickson, intercut with documentary-style video. The live 75 minute performance will split time between live classical standards, lesser known works and film clips examining Berman’s personal life as a mother and classical music festival organizer. The presentation is intended to highlight how classical music can be a driving force in a contemporary private and professional life.
“When people come I want them to experience how relevant classical music is,” Donnelly said.
This will be the first presentation of the project in its current form, and the first time either musician has performed in St. Louis. Donnelly hopes the project’s approach appeals to non-traditional classical music fans. The classical music performance sampler of sorts will attract people to an art-form they might feel alienated from.
The idea of bringing various media into classical music is not entirely new. Just this year the St. Louis Symphony performed alongside a long video work documenting the location that inspired Olivier Messiaen’s From the Canyons to the Stars… which was sold out both locally and at a performance in Berkley, CA.
They’ve also played alongside classic family movies. This April they’ll perform the score to "ET." And in May they’ll perform "Pokémon: Symphonic Evolutions," which will feature visuals inspired by the video game.
“There are always new and creative things that are happening throughout the classical music industry,” said Adam Crane, the Symphony’s vice president for external affairs, who said he was intrigued by Donnelly’s project.
Both Crane and Donnelly mentioned the use of visuals as a way for classical music endeavors to compete with the digital world of social media, easily accessible videos and short attention spans.
“You have to adapt to the culture as well, to where things are going,” said Crane.
"Not So Classical" will take place Thursday, March 10, at Washington University’s 560 Music Center Ballroom Theater.