Friday, 26 July 2019 13:58

Orchestral Odyssey: Vintage Parlor Orchestra rethinks the live classical experience

Written by  Grant Kammer
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Vintage Parlor Orchestra. Vintage Parlor Orchestra. Photo by Eric Tank

Thomas Pike and the Vintage Parlor Orchestra are working to bring orchestral music back to the mainstream. As the project gains momentum, expect to hear symphonic arrangements in unusual places — maybe even your favorite bar or art gallery.

The Vintage Parlor Orchestra is exactly what its name implies: A throwback group of classical musicians taking acoustic music out of the concert hall and into the community. The orchestra takes classical music and executes it with a modern, almost rock-and-roll flair with a dash of vintage aesthetic. Pike — founder, music director and conductor of this new ensemble — embraces his philosophy that “classical music is for everywhere” by bringing his symphony to bars, rock venues, and anywhere else he can fit his small army of musicians.

Founded in 2018, Pike has assembled a rotating cast of talented musicians forming a nomadic vintage band, performing some amazing orchestral works that have fallen into public domain. Dedicated to bringing chamber and orchestral music to new audiences and venues, VPO is actively engaging and performing in untraditional spaces, such as breweries, art galleries, living rooms and historic buildings.

When considering how orchestras in days gone by would play in drinking halls and common houses, Pike’s revival seems well-timed in an era filled with bands playing in breweries and bars. It especially seems a good fit in a growing region like West Michigan, full of opportunities and people interested in the eclectic. While still a young project, the initial response has been positive, with VPO booking recurring shows at the NOMAD Gallery by Richard App, including two coming in August.

Pike and his VPO look to reignite interest around craft, composition and complexity in art and music. He said that he feels he can make orchestral and chamber music more relevant to our daily lives by making the music easier to access, less formalized and presented in a more relaxed environment. It’s an experiment that seeks to reflect the social listening habits of the concert-going public by marketing and performing the same as any other genre would.

Hoping one day to lead a classical music renaissance, Pike wants to emphasize the emotional impact of the music and the social fun of a concert experience. VPO invites its audience members to clap between movements, forget the formalities (within reason) and connect with the performance. While many modern concert goers may feel strange cheering on an orchestral score, Pike hopes to remind the world that “this music was written for an audience, it was made to be interactive.”

So if you’re moved by the swelling of strings and an expertly composed symphony, keep an eye out for the next VPO performance.

“(It’s) a new way of experiencing this music that doesn’t sterilize the emotional impact of the work,” Pike said. ““It’s just like any other concert with lights, drinks, people taking videos, but the band has 24 people in it and they’re playing a Haydn symphony.”

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