By David Moye
Nearly two years ago, classical conductor John Stubbs had a crazy idea: He wanted to take classical music out of the concert halls and see if it could work in a supper club.
The idea was to see if Beethoven or Bach could work as well in a bar as the blues or the Beatles.
He managed to convince many of his friends — who just happened to include many of the area’s finest classical musicians.
The end result is “Luscious Noise,” a bimonthly project that takes place on Sundays at Anthology. The next show is May 15 and will be like a live version of an iPod stuffed with various selections of classical classics instead of a show dedicated to one artist.
It’s not a stuffy show by any means, thanks to modern-day innovations that Mozart would have loved, such as beer and cocktails being served during shows and video vignettes between songs.
But Stubbs thinks it’s really an example of everything old being new again.
“I really saw this as a retro approach,” Stubbs said. “Modern audiences go to a concert and hear the whole concerto, but the programs in the 19th century were more like mine: The orchestra would play a movement, not the whole thing.”
Although Luscious Noise has evolved with each show, most of the changes have been with technical and staging aspects.
“It’s pretty much the same way I envisioned it,” he said. “Except now we have smoother shows.”
There’s another difference in pacing that does reflect the uptempo modern-day, get-it-quickly lifestyle.
“I used to try to get a grand theme for the show, but shifted it about five shows ago,” Stubbs said. “Now it’s more like food — interesting pairings that surprise you.”
Another example might be comparing the new shows to “Revolver,” a Beatles album that features a lot of different songs in different styles that still hold together.
Stubbs agrees. “The older shows were more like ‘Sgt. Pepper,’” he said.
Because Luscious Noise is at Anthology, a club designed to give audiences an intimate view of their favorite artists, Stubbs feels it helps people who otherwise might be intimidated by classical music.
“This is something I learned when we started inviting people to see ballet rehearsals at the studios,” he said. “They got to see the dancers close up and they really saw the sweat and the physicality of their work.”
Stubbs did call in a few favors to get Luscious Noise off the ground, but, since then, he’s earned a fan base of great musicians who want to be a part of the show.
“I always have musicians coming to me with ideas because they want to take part,” he said. “There is a tradition of musicians getting together to perform chamber music at parties. It’s just reading and it’s not a polished performance. There’s a sponteneity that happens when it’s just musicians having a good time.”