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Classical Revolution

Mondays, 8 p.m.
Revolution Cafe 3248 22nd St., San Francisco Mission/ Bernal Heights

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Classical music's no-frills Mission digs.

Armed with stringed instruments and intense training from the likes of Juilliard and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Classical Revolution is on a mission to change the way classical music is perceived and performed in this city. Conceived in late 2006, the collective's intent has been to inject a different sound into the Mission District music scene. What started as a quartet has now become a chamber music jam session with more than 100 performers sitting in over the years — from symphony and opera professionals to Google employees, a truck driver, and a water treatment lobbyist.

The group's music-for-all manifesto, played out three nights a week in unlikely bars, encourages the masses to have a beer with Brahms, dance to Dvorák, or make out to Mendelssohn. Classical music isn't just for the rich folks peering through their binoculars at Davies Symphony Hall — here it's bouncing off the ceilings at mainstays Revolution Cafe, the Make-Out Room, and Socha. These performances are akin to inviting passersby to share balcony seats with a corporate executive, minus the $100 ticket. "We're classically trained, but it's no different than rock 'n' roll," says Edwin Huizinga, a San Francisco Conservatory of Music–trained violinist. "We're getting our voice out there, just like bands playing in a garage."

Charith Premawardhana, a violist and Classical Revolution's founder, says he's working to change the stereotypes about classical music being played only in stuffy concert halls with high ticket prices. "We are about doing something for the community, especially those without a lot of money," he says. "It's also about talented younger musicians wanting to play in spaces other than formal orchestral settings."

The strategy seems to work. One night last month, 45 people crammed into Revolution Cafe's candlelit confines to hear an ensemble perform a Brahms sextet. Part word-of-mouth underground concert and part 18th-century salon, the evening's mix was indefinable. Seated at one table, inches from the musicians, a meditative older gentleman tapped his feet to the rhythm, while just behind him a rollicking group of twentysomethings swayed to the melody. At the bar, a woman scribbled in her journal as the bartender steadily served beers and sangria. No matter the venue, Classical Revolution seems to have accidentally stumbled onto the public's desire for an atmosphere of sexy meets refined. The only similarity between the concert hall and the no-frills bar is the thunderous applause and demand for encores.

Philip Browning, a 64-year-old realtor, has attended almost every Classical Revolution performance for the past year. "It's so intimate sitting next to the musicians, seeing the strings plucked and the extra horsehair hanging off the bow," he says.

The players' accomplishments outside Classical Revolution are vast. On one end of the spectrum, they've competed at New England's internationally acclaimed Tanglewood Music Festival and held positions with the world-famous Arditti Quartet; on the other, they've played with popular acts ranging from Vanessa Carlton and Les Claypool's Frog Brigade to the Mars Volta. But while the professional musicians are a huge draw, there's also a dedicated cadre of Classical Revolution amateurs. Pianist and computer programmer Ariel Backenroth and violinists and Google employees Meghan Sherlock and Jennifer Chang perform with the group regularly. "Anyone can come and play in this chamber music club," Backenroth says. "It's a unique opportunity to play with high-caliber musicians."

Whether its members' résumés are high-powered or far-reaching, Classical Revolution's goal is to take a breather from stodgy traditions associated with its genre and get the public involved in the act. The group is re-establishing chamber music as an intimate art form to be enjoyed during late-night soirées — something like rock's unplugged playbook, only with music that was a hit a few centuries back.


Classical Underground

Wednesdays, 8 p.m.
Monroe 473 Broadway, San Francisco North Beach/ Chinatown

Every wednesday night, come experience LIVE classical music in an unconventional space. 415-772-9002

Dorothea and Artemisia

Sat., June 1, 7:30-9:30 p.m. and Sun., June 2, 2-4 p.m.
Z Space 450 Florida, San Francisco Mission/ Bernal Heights

Buy Tickets$18 -$60

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Left Coast Chamber Ensemble presents Dorothea and Artemisia, a program featuring the world premieres of two original chamber operas, each inspired by the contributions of an extraordinary woman artist. The concert includes From the Field, a micro-opera by Christopher Stark illuminating the work of Depression-era photographer Dorothea Lange, and Artemisia, a dramatic operatic work by Laura Schwendinger based on the life of famed 17th century Italian painter Artemisia Gentileschi. 415-617-5223

Organ Recital with Tom Winpenny

Sun., June 2, 4 p.m.

Tom Winpenny is Assistant Master of the Music at St Albans Cathedral, where he accompanies the daily choral services and directs the Abbey Girls Choir. He was previously sub-organist at St Paul’s Cathedral, London. He has broadcast frequently on BBC Radio and featured on American Public Media’s Pipedreams. He was organ scholar at King’s College, Cambridge, graduating with a music degree, and twice accompanying the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, broadcast worldwide. 415-749-6300

Jeremy Dutcher

Sat., June 29, 1-2:30 p.m.
Yerba Buena Gardens Fourth St. & Mission, San Francisco South of Market

Hailing from the indigenous Wolastoq people of New Brunswick Jeremy Dutcher is a classically-trained tenor who won Canada’s prestigious Polaris Music Prize last year and incorporates incorporating classical influences, full of reverence for traditional songs, and pulled by the urgency of modern-day struggles, Dutcher’s music transcends boundaries of language, time and style. 415-543-1718

San Francisco Symphony

Sun., July 7, 2-4 p.m.
Stern Grove 19th Ave., San Francisco Parkside/ Forest Hill

The San Francisco Symphony (SFS) returns for its annual summer performance at Stern Grove Festival. Led by conductor Edwin Outwater and featuring contralto Lauren Decker, the SFS performs a selection of classical favorites 415-252-6252

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