Standing room only on Monday nights is par for the course at this café/bar in San Francisco's Mission district, because on Mondays, the café hosts live chamber music. The musicians, a mix of freelancers, conservatory students, and techies who play on the side, are volunteers with Classical Revolution, a program that brings high-level classical music into intimate public spaces.
"We're taking out all the other stuff that you get in a normal classical music setting: the formal dress, the formal attitude, the stuffy environment.
A violinist announces that they're getting started with the Mendelssohn octet. He and seven other string players sit at a makeshift "stage"—really just a spot where tables have been replaced by music stands. They bring their instruments to the ready as the buzz quiets to a murmur. They pause, bows hovered over strings. From outside the wall-length window, you can hear a motorcycle whizzing by. But when the musicians start to play, the crowd is enraptured.
I have been playing violin since I was four, performing in more classical concerts than I can remember. Whether I was screeching away at Hot Cross Buns or playing "The Rite of Spring" with an orchestra, the players and listeners followed an unspoken set of rules. The ...