On Tuesday I attended two: a school's concert organised by Cavatina Trust with the Carducci Quartet in the morning and a crossover event with Stringfever at the Bloomsbury Theatre in the evening. They were very different events, but both could legitimately claim to be bringing classical music to a new, and young audience.

The Carducci quartet is a fine string quartet who performed pieces as diverse as Haydn and Webern to show the primary school children a taste of the range chamber music can offer. They also offered insights into how a chamber quartet manages without a conductor:- they breathe together. The children were encouraged to let the quartet know what emotional impact several of the pieces had on them, and it was astonishing how often the children instinctively understood the music. Throughout the one hour session, the children were completely captivated as the quartet interspersed chamber music with games to explain how the music was constructed. These 7 - 11 year olds had plenty of opportunities to be involved with the music, to move and to think, and as such it was a great success.

The evening concert was somewhat harder to categorise. Stringfever is made up of family - three Broadbent brothers and a cousin, Graham, who was a founder member of the Carducci Quartet. Stringfever play electric (Violectra) instruments, and at the start of their concert last night it looked as if I was attending a rock concert rather than classical, but by the end I was convinced that it was doing the job of giving classical music to a crowd of people of all ages, many of whom probably wouldn't have attended a “straight” classical concert. Certainly there were medleys of well known film music, and some extremely competent beatboxing from the youngest brother. (If you don't know this is worth checking out on youtube: it is vocal percussion!) Stringfever did include the irrestible Hungarian dance, “To Life - dance” by Jerry Bock from Fiddler on the Roof and a superb, despite being electric, arrangement of Albinoni's Adagio which held the audience in complete silence. The highpoints for the children included Ravel's Bolero, played by the four men on one bright red cello, and a “History of Music in Five Minutes” which took us through from Elizabethan music to the Beatles and beyond. I loved the fact that the final encore played by Stringfever was Bohemian Rhapsody which owes a great debt to opera. I think it is wonderful that such a successful and iconic rock tune can get so much from opera, and classical and hopefully we shall see more of these innovative classical rock crossovers in the future.

The evening was simply great fun and I would recommend it for people with slightly older children whom you couldn't drag to a more conventional classical concert under any circumstances. I would suggest it would be suitable for 9 plus, partly because the music is loud. For those who just enjoy music of all types, think of it as a return of the Music Hall or Variety act, long out of favour and probably due for a revival.

Speaking to Graham Broadbent, after his concert he told me: “I played for Carducci and Stringfever for a period of about two years (between 2003-2005) but due to an overload of commitments it was not fair to either group for me to continue. Making the decision to leave the Carducci was one of the hardest decisions I've ever had to make, but I've always thought I'd made the right decision. I still play my accoustic viola, from time to time. I've not seen Carducci perform for about a year, but I want to.”

“Stringfever has a repertoire that is much more appealing to Joe Public. We play lots of recognisable music so everyone will know something in the medleys, but in a full length concert there's room for the straight classical music as well. When we played the Albinoni, some people in the audience were in tears and afterwards asked if we could play more classical, and maybe we will.” Finally talking about how to get children into classical music he said: “If children's first experience of music is enjoyable, they're more likely to continue with it. ”

Undoubtedly the children in the school concert will have received a much clearer and more realistic picture about the nature of classical music, and some people will refuse Stringfever any place in the classical music genre. However I think that shuts possible doors for progression in classical music which is badly needed to introduce it to fresh audiences.

Alison Karlin 16th June 2008