“Whenever I see pop groups perform,” says John Stubbs, “I wish that I could see that same level of fun at classical music performances.” Stubbs should know — he spends a lot of time around classical music. His day job is as a violinist in the San Diego Symphony. On the side, Stubbs is the current music director and conductor of the California Ballet Company.
He plans to put the fun back into classical music with a series of multimedia presentations that he has created for the pop stage at Anthology. For now, he’s calling it “Luscious Noise.”
“I’m going to have at least 15 musicians onstage there.” He says they will perform a movement of chamber music. “And then we’ll show a really nice video. Then we’ll play another number and show another video.” Into that mix, Stubbs plans to intertwine a live dance piece as well. “But the focus is not necessarily on the stage all the time. People can drink, eat, and they can talk,” all of which he says is pretty much verboten at standard classical concerts and dance recitals.
“This is interesting,” he says. “When I finally had this epiphany of the kind of thing I wanted to do at Anthology, after the fact, after I’d already come up with this idea, I started finding articles from Berlin and London.” He says that classical club nights have been popular in Europe since the early 2000s.
Anthology would like to have Stubbs produce one such classical-multimedia show a month. “I’m open to that. This is my big experiment. I don’t know if this is going to work.”
A St. Louis native, Stubbs has been a member of the San Diego Symphony since 1977. He says that his hobby for the past decade has been “looking at my industry — classical music — and asking what’s going to bring people in. What’s going to connect? We’re always trying to find new eyes, new ears.”
But due to the attrition in classical music audiences in recent years, one wonders if entrepreneurs like Stubbs aren’t really struggling to keep a dying art form alive.
“I have a theory about that,” he says. “I’ve been in the business for over 30 years, and I’ve been hearing every year that our audiences are graying and that they’re going to start dying off soon. And then the next year, all new people show up and they have gray hair.” Stubbs finds hope in what he calls the natural inclination to seek out new experience.
“You reach your 30s,” he says, “and you realize that maybe rock and roll and Jägermeister aren’t all there is to life.”
Luscious Noise, an evening of live classical music, film, and dance, will premiere at Anthology on Sunday, November 22.