For those of you who think classical music just isn't your thing, think again. Limelight brings classical music underground to the 100 Club, inviting audiences to experience what classical music can sound, look and feel like.

Tsiskaridze as Schéhérazade © M Logvinov
Tsiskaridze as Schéhérazade
© M Logvinov

A sold out show, Wednesday night’s performance featured classical guitarist Milos Karadaglic, a recent graduate of the Royal Academy of Music, and up-and-coming musicians from the London Philharmonic's Foyle Future Firsts programme. Seamlessly moving between centuries and across musical styles, this Limelight performance broke all kinds of boundaries.

Smoky, dark and a little bit gritty, some might say that the 100 Club is an inappropriate space for classical music. But as Milos and the Foyle Future First musicians proved, this grungy atmosphere was just right. Kicking off with Stravinsky's Soldier's Tale, the chromatic line played by pianist Cliodna Shanahan immediately brought audiences down a wandering country lane; and in the second movement, violinist Emily Dellit's violent strokes brought the soldier's tribulations with the devil to life. Although the trio only performed the first three movements of Soldier's Tale, it was easy to imagine the rest of the tale. After that, Ravel’s Duo displayed the complex nature of atonal music: a mix of jarring notes and colourful phrases, all of which shown through brilliantly by Emily Dellit (violin) and Artuo Serna's (cello) informed playing. Radically different from the Stravinksy and Ravel pieces before it, Debussy's Harp Trio came next for harp, flute and viola. Not only was it visually striking to see a harp in a nightclub, but the layering of sound Elizabeth McNulty (harp), Kristen Predl (flute) and Darya Govorun (viola) produced was unlike anything one might expect. Having playe perfectly in sync, the trio captivated audiences with Debussy’s lush, romantic melodies.

During the first break, the suddenly empty stage drove home the intimacy that pervaded the whole club; the audience’s physical closeness to the stage and the performers dissolved barriers that exist in a traditional concert hall. For the audience, there was no pressure to experience the music in a particular way. With a glass of wine in hand, everyone was free to enjoy the music how they chose, whether that meant critiquing musical intonations or dozing off, vaguely aware of the performance on stage. For the musicians, it was a bit more nerve-wracking. Used to performing on stage with the audience at a distance, at the 100 Club, some people were so close to the stage they could reach out and touch the performers! Not to mention the bar was open all night and it must have been hard to ignore whispers of initial reactions and the lights of mobile phones as audience members texted their friends during the concert.

But LPO’s musicians hid their nerves and unease well. Launching into the second half with Poulenc's Brass Trio, trombone player Michael Shore introduced the piece saying, "One critic described this trio as an 18th century piece with wrong notes. But I can assure they are the right notes!" He couldn't have been more right: this trio had the look and feel of a traditional marching band, but the discordant harmonies played by Shore, Ellie Lovegrove (trumpet) and David Horwich (horn) created truly eccentric music.

Throughout their second set, the Future Foyle First musicians performed a diversity of musical styles, jumping from music by the London Philharmonic's resident composer Julian Anderson—which involved vibes!—to Piazzolla's History of Tango. Originally composed for flute and guitar, oboist James Turnbull mastered the drama and intensity of the tango, with McNulty adding a rich, mystical quality on the harp that crafted a quintessential image of a 1960’s nightclub. Jumping back in time to 18th century Vienna, bassoon, horn, oboe, clarinet and piano players all took the stage, performing Mozart's Quintet for Piano and Winds. What was a radically new combination in Mozart's time, the concept of breaking traditions resonated strongly with the audiences at 100 Club. Coming full circle at the end of their performance, the Foyle Future First musicians’ last piece was Stravinsky's Septet. With a complete loss of tonality, the septet is a distinctly modern piece. But the combination of piano, clarinet, bassoon, cello, violin, viola and horn, as well as its contrapuntal nature, gave it a very Baroque feel.

Overall, LPO’s Foyle Future First musicians proved their versatility and professionalism with the challenges they took in their programme. Hardly a 'classical' performance, these young musicians took advantage of their intimate setting to introduce audiences to a wide range of classical music. And judging from people's reactions, it was no longer strange to see a harp or bassoon on the stage; in fact, it would have been surprising to see anything else.

Then Milos Karadaglic took centre stage. Playing classical guitar, it is the kind of instrument that looks more at home in a rock venue. Reflecting on his childhood in Montengero, Milos’s programme had a Mediterranean theme, combining the hypnotic tunes of Turkish folk music, Flamenco dance and gentle Spanish tunes. Performing three pieces by Albeniz, Milos displayed a range of virtuosity that perfectly captured the dance-like feel of Spain’s finest cities. Milos last piece was particular striking. Challenging anyone who believes classical guitar repertoire is limited in style and flair, this last piece, Domeniconi’s Koyunbaba Suite, was tuned in C sharp minor, projecting a dramatic image of a dark, stormy sea that directly contrasted with the gentle undulations of Albeniz.

Overall, Limelight put on a thrilling show. A risky programme, Milos Karadaglic and LPO’s Foyle Future First musicians proved that classical music could thrive in a rock and roll venue. Because really, who's to say it belongs just in a concert hall?