Ottawa’s world-renowned Chamberfest, the largest international festival of its kind, is changing up its traditional playlist with the Ottawa debut of the Shuffle concert on August 5.
Shuffle’s creative director, Israeli pianist Eliran Avni came up with the concept while on the elliptical machine at the gym and his MP3 player – set on shuffle mode – jumped from a rock song to a classical piece, nearly causing him to lose his balance.
The concert features a wide variety of genres, from baroque, classical and romantic period pieces, to Broadway, jazz, Latin and pop, which are performed by a rotating core of musicians who both collaborate extensively and focus on their own solo careers.
Clarinetist Moran Katz, who has been a member of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, is one of the musicians who will play in Shuffle’s Chamberfest debut.
“In the summer, there are lots of festivals, and we kind of run from one to another but it’s fun,” she laughed.
At the concert, a numbered music menu is given to each audience member. When their number is randomly selected, the audience member can request a piece of their choice.
When people “get stuck” and don’t know what to choose, that’s when the evening gets even more interactive, Avni said. The musicians will chat with the audience about the available pieces and genres, and ask what instrument they might like to hear, guiding their choices and empowering the audience to actively participate.
“I think for a lot of people who don’t know about classical music … the interactivity makes it a little safer – like a tasting menu,” he said.
Katz said the options allow for a learning opportunity while appealing to both curious novice concertgoers and classical music veterans alike.
“We have people coming up to us after, saying something like, ‘Wow, I never thought that I would love Shostakovich so much, but after Chicago and before Sting, it just seems like the coolest piece of music,’” she said.
“We want to make sure there is variety and the pieces are interesting,” Avni added. “It’s kind of shocking, but the menu has never been the same twice.”
About 80 per cent of the menu is slated to change immediately after Chamberfest, Avni said, making this concert one-of-a-kind.
Shuffle typically performs for audiences of 200-300, but has performed for audiences as large as 500. The interactive nature of the concert is the key to its success, with musicians often chatting with the audience during and after the performance.
Avni said he is excited to see what the Ottawa venue will be like, since it can be difficult to maintain the interactive atmosphere with larger crowds, sometimes requiring microphones to be passed around.
“With this idea of interactivity … we’re really on to something,” Avni said.
Shuffle is currently working on getting an interactive phone application so the audience can review the menu in ad-
vance and get links to download their favourite pieces.
Shuffle will perform Tuesday, August 5, 10 pm, at St. Brigid’s Centre for the Arts, 310 St. Patrick Street. The concert is sponsored by the Embassy of Israel in Canada. Call 613-234-6306 or visit www.chamberfest.com for information or tickets.