In my teens and early twenties I was convinced I would become an opera singer. Even after reality sank in and the melody of my career path changed, I remained a classical music fan. This conditioning was no doubt strengthened by seeing too many Merchant Ivory films that matched vistas of pastoral countryside and intricately designed heritage buildings with soundscapes from Mozart, Bach and Beethoven. And maybe, just maybe, Bugs Bunny had an influence in there somewhere. Whatever the causes, I am inclined to want classical music whenever I encounter these landscapes. If you also crave classical during trips with historic settings, read on for four ideas to access it, in places locals also frequent.
1. Seek out major places of worship for secular concerts (i.e. -not associated with worship).
Often churches and other places of worship have a gorgeous accoustic-and they know it. As a result, many high-calibre professional and amateur groups will rent the space for Friday and /or Saturday night concerts. Sometimes the church will even make this part of their community outreach agenda, like St. Martin-in-the Fields in London. Connect with these events through local entertainment listings (e.g. Time Out Magazine), or the venue’s website. An alternate approach is to google the city name plus the word “cathedrals” to get a list of prospective venues, and then visit the website for some of those cathedrals to see if it is posting any concert listings. In many European cities, just walk by a few and, chances are, they’ll have a sandwich board advertising tonight’s (or an upcoming) concert.
2. Check out local universities, colleges, and conservatories that have music programmes.
Many of us know the theory (popularized by Malcolm Gladwell) that you need 10,000 hours to become truly proficient. This is certainly true for musicians. And so universities and conservatories do what they can to provide performance opportunities for their students, knowing that performances require their own skill set.
By watching a student concert (usually but not always for a modest fee), you support the arts and get to hear some truly gifted young people perform. Here again, the Internet is your friend, and you can access performance schedules just by searching for the music department page and looking for concert listings. This is less of an option in Summer months, although depending on the city, there may still be some offerings on a more limited basis.
3. Churches -music in that spiritual tradition.
Taking in a service can help you connect with the community you are visiting at a deeper level. And some congregations even offer music-themed services. For a few years when I lived in Vancouver I sang in the Christ Church CathedralChoir. I especially loved the Compline Service, now held at 8pm. It still happens every Sunday, January through November, consisting solely of prayers and (mostly) early music like Gregorian Chant . Music Director Rupert Lang is an incredibly gifted Canadian-born, Cambridge-trained conductor. This service is worth hearing, even if you aren’t Christian/ of that denomination.
4. Music festivals -yes there are some focused on classical music.
Some ideas for finding these:
Find festivals through Bachtrack for classical music, opera, ballet and dance event reviews
Other ideas in North America:
Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival
St. Augustine’s in the Woods – Whidby Island Music Festival
Carmel Bach Festival-July 15-29 in 2017
Whether you’re a died-in-the wool classical fan, or someone who just likes its atmospheric benefits, there are many ways to get a dose of it on your next trip, in settings that also appeal to locals.