Beethoven and Beyoncé: The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Merges Classical Composers With Pop Music

Baltimore Symphony Orchestra conductor Jonathon Heyward leads the orchestra. Screenshot via @baltsymphony on Instagram.

What’s happening?

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) ushers in the second season of its fusion series, which combines the work of classical composers with contemporary pop music, Lawrence Burney reports for the Baltimore Banner. These mashups include a blend of Tchaikovsky with hip-hop artist Drake, Beethoven and Beyoncé, Brahms and Lady Gaga, and Bach and Wagner with Bruno Mars and Adele.

What prompted BSO to introduce the fusion series? 

The previous conductor, Steven Hackman, introduced the first installment of the fusion series in 2020 to attract a more diverse audience. Other symphony orchestras across the country have pursued similar initiatives in an attempt to refresh their audience, including the Lima Symphony in Ohio, which opened it’s season with a performance featuring world-renowned Indian tabla player Sandeep Das. 

Though it’s unclear whether the series has increased ticket sales, BSO’s Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications Cyrina Yarbrough said the fusion shows have brought in a new set of nontraditional audience members. And the convergence of the classic and modern music is especially well-received in a musically-inclined city like Baltimore.

“People are attracted to stuff like Beethoven and Beyoncé just to witness it,” said Jason Bass, entrepreneur and Director of Culture and Impact at Revival. “It’s a beautiful thing for a space like that to embrace the kind of music like hip-hop that, when I was growing up, wasn’t looked at as musical at all. It was cast out. And now we’re being put in the same space as classical music.”

Anything else I should know?

The BSO has previously introduced creative combinations to drive audience diversity, including the Pulse series, which paired classical music with performances by indie artists with ties to Maryland such as Dan Deacon, Kelela, and Lower Dens.

You can read more here.

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