4 of the best: Weird classical music venues

Quirky concerts are always included on the billing for the main Two Moors Festival event in October – we love to take classical music out of the traditional venues of old and prove that its stilted, elitist reputation is entirely unfounded. This year, we’re putting on a series of gigs in the waiting room at Tiverton Parkway station, which is already shaping up to be one of the most popular on the 2012 programme. Classical music is not, repeat not, stuffy – and these four amazing concert venues prove it.

1) Roll up, roll up: The Great Yarmouth Hippodrome

The Hippodrome in Great Yarmouth is the only surviving complete circus building in Britain, constructed in 1903 by showman George Gilbert. It’s played host to a dazzling array of diverse and interesting stars, from Lily Langtry and Houdini to Max Miller, Little Titch and possibly even Charlie Chaplin. Although it’s primarily used for clowning around, the venue isn’t known as East Anglia’s mini Albert Hall for nothing and it also attracts the best of the best in the classical music world. Back in 2009, the Russian State Philharmonic Orchestra took to the stage, with Julian Lloyd Webber as soloist, playing Elgar’s cello concerto. Two years before that, in 2007, the Armonico Consort Touring Opera’s put on a production of Purcell’s Fairy Queen. You might want to pick and choose when you go, though – Zombie Prom, the musical may not be up your cup of tea.

Top tip: Check out the circus museum before you leave – there’s over a century of memorabilia to discover, including a clown head collection. Creepy, much?

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2) Wings of a bird: Concorde Hangar, National Museum of Flight

In 2010, the Lammermuir Festival (which is held in numerous locations around East Lothian) decided to take to the skies and hold a concert in the Concorde Hangar of the National Museum of Flight, with the programme including Reich’s Electric Counterpoint and Gabrieli’s Music for Brass – all in the presence of the massive plane itself. The festival also held events in an old 16th-century schoolhouse and the ancestral home of the Duke of Hamilton.

Top tip: Pack some good walking shoes, as the countryside around East Lothian definitely deserves an explore.

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3) Art and alcohol: Le Poisson Rouge, Greenwich Village, New York

It’s increasingly trendy to hold classical concerts in pubs, bar and clubs and Le Poisson Rouge is one of the coolest places on the planet to enjoy a bit of Beethoven. It was established by musicians on the site of the legendary Historic Gate and is dedicated to fusing popular and art cultures in fine art, dance, film, theatre and music. Artists to have graced the stage include the Calder String Quartet, the Moritz von Oswald Trio, NYC Winter Jazzfest and Mono & The Wordless Music Orchestra. Perfect for classical music with a difference!

Top tip: Go with an empty tummy. There’s all sorts of tasty treats on the menu, like truffled macaroni and cheese.

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4) Strike!: Petersham Bowling Club, Sydney, Australia

The Ensemble Offspring is being applauded across Australia for opening the eyes of an entirely new generation of people to the joys of classical music – all through its choices of venues and compositions. In July and August, the group will be tuning up at the Petersham Bowling Club in Sydney for some “avante-garde contemporary classics mashed up with pop music, early music, late music  and eye-boggling theatrical wonders, all dished up in a casual and cosy Sunday arvo setting”. The club itself was built in 1896 and is one of the oldest in New South Wales, surviving property development proposals, board members leaving en masse and lack of interest from the public to become a great venue with a new lease of life.

Top tip: Remember your bowling shoes! There may be time for a game after the concert.

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So – where’s the weirdest place you’ve ever been to a classical concert?

Don’t forget to come to our Season Ticket for Bach series of concerts in October, on between the 15th & 19th. Call (01643) 831 370 for more information.

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