What sounds do you associate with a taproom? The clinking of glasses? The hum of pumps and boilers? Maybe some radio rock blaring from a speaker in the corner?
You probably don’t think of classical music that combines violins with electronics, or of Vellumsound, the resident string ensemble at the Museum of Fine Arts. But that’s just what visitors to Slumbrew’s American Fresh Brewhouse in Boynton Yards got to hear last summer, when pianist and composer Kirsten Volness stopped by the bar to play her spiritual string music while backed by the MFA’s band.
This was Original Gravity—a series that combines new classical compositions with original, limited-batch beer from local breweries specifically made to compliment the evening’s music. Over the last few years, OG has partnered with Slumbrew, Aeronaut Brewing Co. and Bantam Cider, plus a number of breweries beyond Somerville.
Why combine classics and beer? (Besides, you know, the obvious.) Scout sat down with pianist, composer and conductor Keith Kirchoff, artistic director for Original Gravity, to learn what these events are like and how heading to the bar helps him reach an untapped—pun very much intended—audience.
Scout Somerville: Where did the idea for this kind of collab come from? I have to say, brewing and classical music aren’t things I’d necessarily put together.
Keith Kirchoff: I can totally see how one might think them incongruous, but I’d argue that brewing and classical music aren’t actually all that far apart. Both are creative arts steeped in history, and both can be really inspirational to the consumer. And when you can sip an inspirational drink while listening to an inspirational piece, that’s when the magic happens!
I often hear people argue that “classical music is dying.” I really disagree with this sentiment. What I think is accurate, though, is that people are growing disinterested in the concert hall. For people who haven’t grown up or are unfamiliar…