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Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment Brings The Night Shift to Littlefield

orchestra of the age of enlightenment night shiftIn the ongoing quest to get young people to embrace classical music by serving it up in more casual environs(i.e., one where you can get a drink), one peculiar exponent is the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. Since 2005, the British period instrument orchestra has hosted The Night Shift: a series of casual, late-night shows across London, from small pubs to large nightclubs. This sort of thing is nothing new, either in London or here in New York (or other American cities), but is strange to think about an orchestra that plays on gut strings and valveless horns trying to bridge the age gap. 
Last Sunday, a day after they played a more traditional concert at Alice Tully Hall, several OAE musicians trekked across the East River to present the first U.S. edition of The Night Shift at Littlefield, which has been known to host some pseudo-classical shows in the past. There were a handful of curious onlookers, but the house was nowhere near full, due at least in part to that day's snow storm.
Opening the show was Harlem's Queen Esther, a Billie Holiday tribute singer who played with bass and drums. She didn't really sound anything like Ladt Day, but she was warm and engaging and served the purpose of warming the room. 

The Night Shift, LittlefieldAfter a beer break, the OAE came out to play the first of two "sets" of classical chamber music. Everyone stood, most with some kind of drink in hand. A merch table at the back offered free coasters and keychains, along with a handful of CDs for sale. Tickets cost $10, less than most shows at Littlefield. 

The music was well played, if not particularly exciting: horn quintets by Mozart and Michael Haydn, a string trio by Schubert. What was impressive was the musicians' fluency in their stage banter, stopping after each movement to offer amusingly dorky anecdotes about the composers and their music, assuming the audience knew next-to-nothing about classical music. It was all highly scripted and well-rehearsed.
"The viola is just a big violin," volunteered violist Colin Scobie, who later told us about once trying to play a concert after downing five pints at the pub.
After the final notes of Michael Haydn's "Concerto à 5" faded away, the OAE received an appreciative hand from the audience, no doubt realizing they were in the presence of world class musicians. Who cares if this was some misguided attempt to make period instrument music "hip": it was a delightful and relaxing way to spend the last few hours of a weekend that already saw more than its share of musical miracles.
littlefield, oae night shift
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