Music in the Round has been a long-standing feature of Sheffield’s cultural landscape. We chatted to them about how it all began, why classical music is for everyone and what we’ve got to look forward to in their Autumn Season.
How did Music in the Round get started?
In 1984, The Lindsay String Quartet were asked by Tony Thornton (then chair of Sheffield Theatres) to bring some chamber music to Sheffield, as there just wasn’t any in the city at that time. Violinist Peter Cropper bravely decided to put on two whole weeks of Beethoven in The Upper Chapel. It was such a success that an annual music festival was born. Eventually this evolved into Music in the Round with The Lindsays as musicians in residence and we’ve gone from strength to strength ever since. We are now the largest promoter of chamber music outside of London – despite being a small but very determined team.
What makes the Music in the Round offering so unique?
Our home venue, The Crucible Studio Theatre, provides a unique concert experience as the audience sits in 360 degrees, surrounding the performers on stage. If you’re on the first couple of rows, you could reach out and touch the musicians – that’s how intimate our concerts are. Nowhere else in the country has a space quite like this, we’re very lucky indeed. We also provide a home for Ensemble 360, South Yorkshire’s only professional classical group. Throughout the year these eleven exceptional musicians come together to perform a huge variety of chamber music, from solo Bach violin and much-loved Beethoven string quartets to 21st Century compositions and sparkling septets, octets and even nonets – that’s a very busy stage!
How do you choose your bookings?
At the heart of our concert series is the music. Angus Smith, our Artistic Director, works alongside Ensemble 360 and our Marketing team to select a programme that provides a balance of much-loved, well-known music as well as more unusual, lesser-known pieces that aim to challenge and surprise the audience. We’ve been fortunate to book numerous internationally renowned visiting artists too, such as Paul Lewis and Maria Joao Pires. We’re proud to say that we’re one of the only promoters delivering this level of quality music outside of London, just one more reason why Sheffield is such a special city.
Why should people from the younger generations come to Music in the Round?
Classical Music is for you. We don’t want you to feel as though you should know anything about the music, composers or musicians; you just need to be open to a new experience. And be confident that you belong in our audience – we want you there! If you’re under 35, tickets are only £5 to each classical concert, so if you decide halfway through that Haydn string quartets send you to sleep or that Schoenberg is just too weird, well that’s OK – don’t worry about it. Come back for the same cheap price to see something completely different, such as a dramatic Liszt and Chopin piano recital or a quirky 20th Century programme. There is no wrong way to discover and embrace classical music.
What advice do you have for upcoming classical musicians?
If you want to be a professional classical musician there is no doubt that you will have to work incredibly hard. Practice daily, perform often, listen more. However, now is an unpredictable, challenging and exciting time for young classical musicians. In an age of technology, digital and social media, boundaries are crying out to be pushed, stereotypes waiting to be crushed and sharing your passion with the world will play an important part in ensuring classical music is not lost on future generations.
Which upcoming Music in the Round events are you most excited about?
Our Autumn Season this year boasts visiting artists who are creating a real buzz in the classical world. Violinist Alina Ibragimova stunned the Royal Albert Hall at last years’ BBC Proms and on Saturday 10 December we’ll be hosting this unbelievably famous talent in Sheffield – that’s very exciting indeed.
You can book tickets for Music in the Round’s Autumn Season from Saturday 19 July at http://www.musicintheround.co.uk/
Interview by Felicity Jackson
Images 1, 4 & 5: David Shapiro
Images 2 & 3: Andy Brown
Image 6: Eva Vermandel