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New classical music group samples from Bach to Radiohead

February 5, 2010 |  9:33 am

Wildup You'd be forgiven for mistaking wild Up, a newly formed Los Angeles chamber orchestra, for an indie rock band.

For one thing, the ensemble has chosen to hold its first concert in Echo Park -- ground zero for experimental rock in L.A. In addition, the group said it encourages its audience to walk around and drink beer and wine during the performance, which will include music ranging from Bach to Radiohead.

Headed by Christopher Rountree (pictured), wild Up is a 24-member collective comprised of young musicians from around L.A. (Members range in age from 19 to 29.) The ensemble features string, woodwind and other instrumentalists you would expect from a chamber group, except that the group's presentation favors intimacy over the formality of classical concerts.

Friday's inaugural performance, which takes place at 8 p.m. at Jensen's Recreation Center Studio in Echo Park, will grant audiences  close physical proximity to performers.

"Your typical classical concert has this strange thing called a stage," said Rountree in a recent interview. "The musicians are placed on a pedestal and the conductor is even higher on his own pedestal. That's not what we want to do."

He said the group chose the space at Jensen's Recreation Center after seeing a performance there by the experimental Brooklyn rock band Dirty Projectors.

Rountree, who will serve as conductor, said that audiences will have the choice of traditional seating or lounge seating. (Some of the seating faces away from the performers. Audiences will also be allowed to drink and socialize during the performance.

Friday's concert will survey music from 300 years of Western culture, including Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, John Adams' Chamber Symphony, Stravinsky's "Dumbarton Oaks" and an arrangement of Radiohead songs.

A California native, Rountree, 26, has studied conducting at the University of Michigan and has also studied privately with Joana Carneiro, a former assistant conductor with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. He is the nephew of Stephen Rountree, who heads the Music Center in downtown L.A. and also serves as one of the top officers of the L.A. Opera.

"I talked to him only briefly about it," said the younger Rountree about his uncle. "I haven't really consulted him."

Wild Up's mission is nothing less than to alter the classical music form from the top down. "You have to do something that is true to the original pieces but also something that is different," Rountree said.

"I don't know if 'cross-over' is the right word, but our goal is to create a totally new experience for the listener."

-- David Ng

Photo: Christopher Rountree conducting the wild Up ensemble. Credit: Michael Chang

Comments () | Archives (5)

and then the main line in his bio is:
"He is the nephew of Stephen Rountree, who heads the Music Center in downtown L.A. and also serves as one of the top officers of the L.A. Opera. "

This was somewhat interesting about 7 or 8 years ago, before every youngish musician with a classical background decided that the most important thing was "breaking down barriers", and that the only way to achieve this exalted mission was to...eliminate the stage?? And "close physical proximity", really, how unique. I'm fainting, I have Stendhal Syndrome, I'm overwhelmed by the brilliance of this concept.

Yes, we get it, classical music can be hip. Classical musicians go hear bands! Sometimes they drink! They can hang out in Echo Park, too! But maybe the music and the audiences would be better served if the musicians were a little less interested in being stars, and more interested in engaging audiences powerfully - through the music itself. Here are some hints:

ICE, eighth blackbird, Ojai, either/or, Miller Theater, counter/induction.

I just got back from the concert and it was thrilling - visceral. The program was constructed in a manner that will make me think about the concert for a long time. Bravi to Wild Up one and all. A passionate performance in a really interesting and conducive space.

This show was really fun!

It was fantastic last night. So engaging being close to the musicians, watching their expressions and totally involved with the music even when they were not playing. If young children were sitting this close, I think they would love music. I couldn't help but tap my foot, rock my body to the music and alot of this was new for me, but it definitely captured my spirit. Thrilling evening. I want more, when are you playing again?


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