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Amsterdam’s indie classical scene goes underground – in a Crypt

Chris Bowen
| June 7, 2016
the crypt venue

The Crypt Venue

Amsterdam is enjoying a resurgence in the independent classical scene. Previously, we have reported how the closure of a couple of local venues provided the impetus for Splendor Amsterdam, an independent home for 50 classical artists. The latest addition is The Crypt, a regular Thursday night venue and gathering place for independent classical artists, run by expatriate entrepreneur Brendan Jan Walsh.

Music Australia caught up with Walsh at Rotterdam’s Classical:Next conference, where he was an organiser of a well-attended networking meeting for colleagues with similar interests – building a new movement for the artform.

British born with a Belgian mother, and now an Amsterdam resident, Walsh is founder of the Classical Music Rave, club style events that combine quality art music with DJs and VJs, where people are encouraged to dance in atmospheric late night settings. There is evidently a demand, 500 people turned up to the first event to enjoy a program with two rooms, a dance and a chill space.

A self-described musical mutineer, Walsh passionately believes that it’s possible to have intelligent music outside the typical concert venue. “Our generation doesn’t feel at ease in places like that. So why would we want to go and sit uncomfortably in a situation where we don’t know what’s allowed, don’t know what to do, and it’s just not inviting?” he asks.

His indie classical movement is a form of mutiny, one man’s revolution from the mainstream.

 I want artists to break the barriers of traditional etiquette.

Brendan Walsh set up The Crypt, a weekly classical music series in the centre of Amsterdam, in a small independent space. It is where people can try different concepts, put varied artforms together, and see what comes of it.  A self-built initiative, enabled through a grant as an incentive to develop the concept, the series is now realized without subsidy, although “with a lot of goodwill from a lot of people”. It’s also used as a studio. Walsh hopes it can become a regional musical hub for the indie classic scene.

At The Crypt’s opening in October 2015, Charlotte Koenka quotes Walsh:  “Ladies and Gentleman the Crypt will be the stage for the Dutch underground classical scene,” he announced rolling his ‘R’s. “I want artists to break the barriers of traditional etiquette.” The first event featured Alma Quartet led by Concertgebouw Orchestra‘s Marc Daniel van Biemen, a good friend of Walsh.

Walsh studied music, but didn’t suit the single track conservatoire approach. It was the celebrated Christopher Hogwood who suggested he consider music management, which he studied across three cities, then worked in various roles and is now primarily as a consultant.

Brendan Jan Walsh

Brendan Jan Walsh

The Crypt, like Splendor, was partly inspired by the Icebreaker, now closed.  Walsh reflect that’s It’s a different time now, “the music being performed is more focused on the audience.  We’ll bring what we think is beautiful, we’ll bring it outside the concert hall. We don’t have to work specifically work within the norms of classical.”

Central to the concept is a social setting. “The interesting thing about a party atmosphere is it permits a different sort of relationship with the audience. They are part of it, and can interact. It lends itself to stories and narratives, and building different worlds” says Walsh.

Walsh’s multifaceted consultancy spans the private sector and music. For example working with Dutch Rabo Bank to build a case to set up a culture business for small to medium enterprises.

Brendan feels that the funding upheaval in the Netherlands, with huge cuts, has created cracks from which a new independent scene has begun to flourish. It has freed up ways of working, and created more interest in venues where new forms of work can be commissioned and presented.

What can people take from the phrase indie classical? “What we like about the term is nobody agrees about it. At least the movement now has a name, and we can develop from there.”

It is a movement that is increasingly being recognised, for example by digital platforms who now cater for it through tailored playlists, and a range of similar events in many other cities.

Brendan Walsh’s top suggestions for more Indie Classical activity:

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