Fancy getting up close to some of Australia’s top chamber musicians? Adelaide Festival Centre is currently presenting a short series called Live at the Quartet Bar, delivering chamber music in a relaxed, intimate setting in order to encourage a different kind of connection between the musicians and audience than in a concert hall setting. Sharon Grigoryan, the cellist with the Australian String Quartet, has curated the series, which began on November 12 with a performance by pianist Anna Goldsworthy and violinist Helen Ayres. On December 9, the ASQ will perform, followed by Sharon and Slava Grigoryan on December 16. Sharon Grigoryan spoke to Limelight.

Slava and Sharon Grigoryan. Photograph © Simon Shiff

What attracted you to curating Live at the Quartet Bar for the Adelaide Festival Centre?

Any concert that shows chamber music in a small, intimate and relaxed setting is one that I would love to be a part of. It’s what chamber music is all about.

How do the musicians feel about having the audience sitting up close in an intimate setting?

I can only speak for myself as a musician – it’s wonderful. With the audience so close, you can really feel their reaction whilst you’re playing, which makes the whole experience more visceral for both the performers and the audience.

How did the performance by Anna Goldsworthy and Helen Ayres go?

They were wonderful, of course. It’s so important to not only have top notch performers in this series, but also people who are top notch human beings who are equally passionate about making a real connection with the audience in a less austere way than on the concert hall stage.

What repertoire have you chosen for the ASQ concert on December 9?

Ah… part of the fun of this series is that it’s a secret that will be revealed on the night! More like a gig at a pub.

Presumably the musicians won’t wear formal concert attire?

Probably not. It feels a bit strange to wear evening gowns to play when it’s in a cabaret setting with the audience enjoying a glass of wine whilst we talk to them about the music.

How have you structured the concerts? Do the musicians talk about the music, and is there an interval?

One hour long, no interval, and the musicians will talk about each piece before they perform it.

Will you and Slava play some tracks from your new album Our Place?

Again, it’s a surprise! But given our album consists of most of our favourite pieces, I am positive that many of those pieces will feature in this recital.

What kind of atmosphere are you hoping to generate?

Chilled out, fun, but not at all dumbing down the fact that this is beautiful music being performed by some of Australia’s best performers.

Can the audience eat and drink as the musicians perform?

Of course.

The prices are relatively low ($25 and $22.50 concession). Are you hoping to attract audiences who don’t regularly attend classical concerts?

Hopefully. Having said that it was lovely to see lots of familiar faces in the audience at the last performance. However this is a perfect opportunity for someone who has never been to a classical concert before – it’s cheap, it’s informal and friendly, and if it’s not their cup of tea, at least it only runs for an hour and they can have a glass of wine! I have had so many people come up to me in the past few years after gigs like this saying that they have never been to a classical performance before because they thought it was too intimidating or boring, but they have become a classical convert thanks to that experience. That’s what I hope for with this series, too.

Live at the Quartet Bar, Adelaide Festival Centre, features the Australian String Quartet on December 9, and Sharon and Slava Grigoryan on December 16