Classical Revolution Festival: Three Weeks of Hot Concerts
Charith Premawardhana doesn’t see himself as a revolutionary, despite the fact that the organization he founded is called Classical Revolution. He’s more like a social networker/booking agent, but one who has seen a possible future for classical music … which is to say that he sees it played everywhere. “Everywhere,” in this case, means over one hundred different venues, so far, in the Bay Area (few of them specializing in classical music), more than eight hundred concerts, and somewhere north of six hundred musicians. Now there are offshoot chapters of Classical Revolution across the nation, and another in Canada. And that’s how the first Classical Revolution festival was born.
“In April,” Premawardhana remarks, “we had our first multichapter conference in Chicago. I had the idea of bringing people together again in San Francisco in September. We had a couple of higher-profile gigs already booked, at the de Young [Museum] and Yoshi’s, so I decided we’d make a weekend of it. It grew from that into adding more concerts. I just kept adding more venues, small and medium-sized. I knew there were a lot of musicians who were looking to play.”
The Classical Revolution Festival sports an astonishing 31 concerts in 23 venues over three weeks, September 7–30. Premawardhana suggests the musicians, the venue pays a fee, and the process repeats. And, of course, the music represented is not just European classical, but a smorgasbord of styles. He notes:
One of the concerts that was just confirmed is Baroque music from the Albany Consort and a new group called MUSA, made up of recent S.F. Conservatory graduates. They’re playing a church venue. On Sept. 8 we have a piano recital with Lara Downes at Salle Pianos. And we’re doing some straight-ahead classical music, which is kind of our bread and butter. But we’re also doing some Latin with our crossover group, the Musical Art Quintet. Also, we'll be playing on Sept. 9 with Quartet San Francisco at Yoshi's. We have some jazz, with Mads Tolling, the former violinist of Turtle Island String Quartet, who’s bringing his quartet — that’s on Sept. 21 at the Collins Theater. We have some rock ’n’ roll represented here on Sept. 27 at the Great American Music Hall: Judgment Day, which is a rock band with string instruments [violin and cello], and they play what they call ‘string metal.’ And also on that show is Stephen Jenkins, from the band Third Eye Blind.
Some of the concerts are free and open-admission, in keeping with Classical Revolution’s mission to lower the barriers to hearing live music. So is Premawardhana the go-to guy for people looking to book musical acts in San Francisco? “The goal I have with Classical Revolution is to connect musicians with venues and audiences and make some really good music happen.” – Charith Premawardhana
“I wouldn’t say that,” he responds, “but it’s kind of the goal I have with Classical Revolution: to connect musicians with venues and audiences. So over the past six years we’ve been slowly building our connections. And the goal is just to make some really good music happen,” he says, in places where it might not be heard normally. “The people we play for say, ‘I never realized how much I enjoyed Mozart until you guys came here and played in a place where people can relax and enjoy it on their own terms,’” Premawardhana concludes.