Buzzbrews Kitchen begins to fill. Students work on notebook computers. The after-work crowd relaxes over cups of coffee. Paintings of Bob Marley and Madonna stare down on a young man. He is practicing Handel’s aria, Lascia Ch’io Pianga.
Amid the restaurant clammer, somewhere around 8:00ish, Mark Landson wanders up to the stage, violin in hand. Dressed in a Sun Studios t-shirt, jeans and pleasantly worn black boots, he could be any dude hanging out at a coffee bar. Then, he starts to play the hauntingly familiar strains of Bach/Gounod’s Ave Maria. He plays with such loving intensity, he transforms into another Rudolfo, Puccini’s romantic leading man in La Boheme.
This is Classical Open Mic, an ongoing open mic night for classical musicians. Held on Tuesdays at Buzzbrews on Lemmon, the audience can see professional musicians, music students and average folks with a love of music, perform for the fun of it. There is a playfulness about the evening, which shows a side of classical musicians not often seen by the public. Without the exacting confines of concert performance, musicians are free to take chances.
Classical Open Mic began in 2010 by pianist Kristin Center and her manager, Michael Jackson (a local photographer). When the demands of Kristin’s career threatened to shut Classical Open Mic, Mark Landson took over. Mark, a graduate of Eastman School of Music, works closely with pianist Thiago Nascimento to put together the weekly event.
After several musicians play, up comes Katelyn Harris, professional tap dancer. Yes, ladies and gents, that’s right – a professional tap dancer. Mark and Thiago accompany her with a Bach concerto. Thiago has never heard the piece, so Mark looks for it online. Mark then props the computer on top of the piano. Katelyn improvises a tap routine as Mark and Thiago sight-read. They toss in occasional bits of swing and ragtime. Dear readers, do you have any idea how incredibly difficult that is? They had to know three – THREE – different styles of music well enough to be able to improve on a whim. Never mind the enormous skill in sight reading any piece of music, let alone on a computer, barely-balanced on a piano. Katelyn taps on pointe while another pianist tosses popcorn into Thiago’s open mouth. He catches it, never missing a note.
This playfulness might seem irreverent to some audience members accustomed to formal performances. However, classical music was often composed in coffeehouses just like this one, only Bach never had wifi.
Open Classical is held every Tuesday evening at 8:00 at Buzzbrews Kitchens, 4334 Lemmon Avenue; Dallas, TX 75219. To learn more, check out the group’s website, http://www.openclassical.org or their Facebook page. Musicians wishing to join in the fun should contact Mark Landson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
photos lifted from Open Classical DFW Facebook