Jim Carroll: Closing the gap between clubland and the classical world

Classical musicians are joining forces with DJs and electronica producers - and are fast becoming the hottest ticket in town

There comes a time in every young music-loving buck’s life when the usual rounds of gallivanting begin to wear thin. Slowly, the lure of the club and gigging circuit start to wane and a craving develops for distractions that don’t involve the dancefloor.

Some turn in desperation to repeats of classic episodes of Top Gear. Others begin to develop an interest in high-grade coffee, a pursuit that leaves them more jittery and highly strung than they've ever been at 4.30am. It also turns out to be a hell of a lot more expensive than clubland's thrills, but that's another story.

For those who still want to go out and experience a bit of culture, the concert hall was often viewed as a means to an end. You got the night out, there was music, the parking was handy and you’d be home before 11pm. Concert hall patronage was a sign that maybe – just maybe – you’d left those foolish things behind.

But whatever gap existed between the nightclub and the concert hall is no more and it’s the classical musicians who’ve made sure of that.


They’re the ones who’ve joined forces with DJs and electronic music producers to create events that are pulling the kind of audience you’d never see turning up at a more sedate classical music event.

It’s a great number for the dance music world as they get to extend their reach beyond the late-night economy. But the classical lads and lasses seem to be the ones relishing what is going on as they take their violins, cellos, brass, violas and woodwind yokes to a very different party.

You can’t argue with the evidence that there’s a demand for this. 2fm DJ Jenny Greene’s jaunt with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra in a tent at this year’s Electric Picnic was one of the festival’s highlights. They’ll be attempting to repeat the trick with those 1990s dance classics at the much larger 3Arena next month.

Sold-out show

That same orchestra join forces with techno maestro Jeff Mills when he visits Dublin’s Bord Gáis Energy Theatre for a sold-out show on October 30th.

Mills is a dab hand at this stage when it comes to collaborating with classical musicians, having previously performed with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and the Montpelier Philharmonic Orchestra – so he’ll be saving a few bob on the sheet music at least.

It seems that those RTÉ musicians are the big winners in all of this club/classical crossover. They’ll be showing up suited and booted at the 3Arena again in December for Haçienda Classical, featuring iconic house bangers from the fabled Manchester club.

Aside from the orchestra, you’ll also have club resident DJ Graeme Park, New Order’s Peter Hook and Happy Mondays’ Rowetta and the Manchester AMC Choir.

What’s striking about this wave of activity – aside from the fact that no one told us you had to be a raver to join the RTÉ CO – is that the material works so well in a concert-hall setting. If there was a sense that the original one-off house tunes that soundtracked raves and clubs in the past only worked in a particular setting, the orchestrated performances turn this logic on its head.

Newly minted versions

Aside from the euphoric reaction from the audience to hearing newly minted versions of such evergreen hands-in-the- air bangers as Black Box's Ride On Time, Robert Miles Children, Rozalla's Everybody's Free, Rhythm Is Rhythm's Strings Of Life and Marshall Jefferson's Move Ur Body, it does set you thinking if this means a re-evaluation for the producers behind the tracks.

Originally flung together to capture a mood and a feeling, the anthems with their new arrangements make you appreciate their musicality all the more, or even, in some cases, for the very first time.

Just let’s not get carried away and start comparing them to Brahms or Beethoven – or the letters page will have a fit of the vapours.