A chamber ensemble comprised mainly of Atlanta Symphony Orchestra members could be the first group to reignite a classical music program at Eddie’s Attic in Decatur.
The Georgian Chamber Players — Zhenwei Shi on viola; pianists Julie Coucheron and Elizabeth Pridgen; and violinist David Coucheron — perform at the club venue at 9 p.m. May 17. The program includes late 19th century Norwegian composer Johan Halvorsen’s “Passacaglia,” based on a theme by Handel, as well as music by Jules Massenet and Fritz Kreisler. The group will close with Robert Schumann’s Piano Quintet in E-flat major, Op. 44. (The chamber bluegrass group Hawktail plays a separate ticketed show at 7 p.m.)
Andy Hingley, the venue’s talent booker and co-owner, hasn’t programmed classical chamber music for nearly a decade. He is using this coming concert to test the appetite for a classical series at the club.
Hingley’s ties to booking classical music at Eddie’s began with his neighbor, who played in the ASO and with the Riverside Chamber Players starting in 2008. Wes Collins is now principal viola at the Cleveland Orchestra, but back then he was just getting started at the ASO, practicing late into the night at his apartment complex. Hingley would run into him from time to time, and the two eventually started chatting about classical performance. In 2012, the Riverside ensemble took the stage at Eddie’s, performing works by ASO bassist and composer Michael Kurth. The concert marked the beginning of Hingley’s association with classical music at Eddie’s Attic.
Other ASO musicians soon followed. During and in the aftermath of ASO lockouts in 2012 and 2014, Eddie’s hosted heralded “United by Music” concert parties featuring a broad swath of the symphony. Hingley also points to a 2012 concert by violist and Atlanta native Jennifer Stumm as a high point in classical booking at Eddie’s.
The commitment to classical petered out in the coming years, Hingley said. The lack of classical programming at Eddie’s surely wasn’t due to a lack of demand, though Hingley admits that scheduling became an issue. He tends to book the club five months in advance, which can lead to quite a logistical puzzle when dealing with symphony musicians locked into aggressive performance, rehearsal and teaching schedules.
“A lot of it is just literally trying to get the stars to align,” he said.
The upcoming Georgian Chamber Players concert came about when an Eddie’s Attic intern named Tyler Lovelace asked a simple question: Why don’t you do this anymore? There was no good answer. Andy said former owner Alex Cooley, who took over Eddie’s Attic in 2011, was always a huge fan of classical music, so it makes sense to think about reviving a concert series in a venue that’s more well-known for jump-starting pop careers.
For Hingley, the possibility of once again booking classical music at Eddie’s Attic is all about re-exposing Eddie’s Attic customers to the genre, letting regular patrons see violinists and pianists in a different light.
“I would love them to come here and say, ‘Oh my gosh, this is cool as hell’,” Hingley said.
While the setting for chamber music might be a little different, Hingley hews tightly to a listening room atmosphere to make sure everyone can focus on, and hear, the unamplified music. That means, among other small adjustments, no food service during the music.
Hingley also likes the lack of an “organized setup” like at a recital hall. He thinks this may lead the musicians to take more chances with the music — or even improvise at times — when they aren’t worrying about producing a perfect performance. This aspect, combined with the audience’s proximity to the performers, really sells the idea.
“You can be up close and personal,” he said. “You really get a taste of how talented the performers are.”
Georgian Chamber Players
9 p.m. May 17. $30. Eddie’s Attic, 515 B N. McDonough St., Decatur. 404-377-4976, eddiesattic.com.