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Brendan Jan Walsh/Mr Van Walsh: Two Sides of the Same Cello

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Brendan Jan Walsh: Bandleader Extraordinaire, rooftop in Amsterdam © Zoë Heijke

 

DB: We met at a Classical Music Rave. How did such an event come about? Are there more of these raves planned? And to what end? 

BJW: The idea was born at a brainstorm with pizza and beer, organized by a beautifully creative friend. We all wanted to find a way to reinvigorate the world of classical music that we love and hated. The music is fantastic. Why was everything around it so stuffy? Then someone shouted, I like to rave! Let’s do a rave…. Brilliant.

With three other friends we then made it happen. Somehow, we managed to set up an event, completely without external funding but with the help of approximately 40 volunteers and 20 artists. It was a stupid amount of work, and financially the organizers even had to chip in to cover the final costs, but we did it!

And I wanted to do more.

Now there have been about 15 raves in the Netherlands and abroad in countries such as Brazil, Cuba, Estonia, US (you were there!) and soon also Belgium.

To what end? Well… to demonstrate that you don’t have to accept the norm. That etiquette can be changed. Funnily enough, during the second rave in Amsterdam, there was a bit of a riot because I had introduced electronic music into the program. Some classical purists amongst the party people were furious. How dare I change the concept? 

I said: it’s a concept of experiment. We try new things here. If you don’t like this music, go and have a beer. I you don’t like that, leave.

Another lesson learned: managing expectations is important. That’s one of the reasons I was happy to learn about Indieclassical.

 

DB: Is Indieclassical a thing? Is it the right term for a new wave of classical music and artists? Is there an actual genre? Are artists performing and recording what would be labeled as such?

BJW: First of all, nobody agrees about the term. I quite like that about it. It’s an indicator that something really is happening in the world of music (and beyond) and people are trying to pinpoint what it is. But it’s definitely not a genre. I think it is so much more than that. It’s a movement of people – artists and audiences – moving away the need for boxes, charts and borders. It’s a much longer story and William Robin even wrote a doctorate on the topic, but I would summarize it as a movement of creatives who seek musical discovery beyond the usual venues and repertoire, actively stimulating interaction and influence. Appreciating roots, but playful with rules.

Why don’t you check out artists such as Gabriel Prokofiev, Jerboah, BachSpace or labels like Bedroom Community, New Amsterdam Records or Neue Meister. Or come to a classical music rave! The next one is happening in Gent, Belgium on 21 April 2018 and I’m working on a rather big operatic party for 2019/20, starting in Amsterdam and then hopefully touring the world.

 

DB: Am hard pressed to label you, to pigeon-hole you. To say you are either eccentric, esoteric or eclectic would fall far short of the mark? How would you describe yourself to others? And your fashion sense?

BJW: I have worked long and hard to be independent. I’m a happy person (some would say cursed, with eternal optimism) and I see every day as a new discovery. My dream is that there would be a surprise for everybody around every corner. This way we would all be a lot more excited about the world outside, more curious and playful. We’d be more like kids. They are the most creative anyway!

And my fashion sense? I wear what I like and I like art. If I could afford it, I’d wear art all day every day. Speaking of fashion… a fine example of an art form that HAS managed to build a bridge with the business world.

 

DB: I want to get back to your alter ego/persona: Mr Van Walsh. What’s up with that? Your videos, your Vlog is both eye-catching and mind boggling? What message are you looking to drive home, to get across to your online audience?

BJW: Mr Van Walsh is on a quest for beauty. He is in fact in the luxurious position of being new to this world and naturally curious about things. He can question and accept any situation or thing he comes across.

The message is quite simple: Dare to dare. Dare to Try. Try to try. Try to Dare… to make the world more beautiful.

 

DB: Having met few people with such verve and energy, I have to ask how do you relax? Do you listen to music? Are you into Hi-Fi? It’s okay if you’re not. Given all that you do with music, listening to it at home could be a busman’s holiday. 

BJW: The funny thing is: if you’re enjoying yourself then it is relaxing in itself too. But as with all my other activities, I try to relax as effectively as possible. So, focus on one thing. That can be music listening (I am intrigued by Hi-Fi but by no means can I claim to know much about it), watching a piece of art, people watching on a bench outside or on public transport and since last year: gardening on the rooftop of my office in Amsterdam.

 

DB:  Are there any burgeoning classical composers and/or instrumentalists, you have come across that the rest of the world, read that to mean us should know about? And be attending their concerts. 

BJW: It really deserves an update, but do check out my Indieclassical playlist on 24Classics. One relatively recent discovery I adore is LUWTEN. Another genius project is HUSH by Nora Fischer and Marnix Dorrestein. They are presenting their album of reimagined Purcell songs on 18 April 2018 and deserve to troubadour the world with that.

 

DB:  If the culmination of Brendan Jan Walsh & Mr Van Walsh achievements is to mean anything, what would that be? What would be the heritage? What would be the legacy? Can you foresee Walshism as a 21st century school of thought to be studied by future generations?

BJW: A world where the only currency is time, where children are the Nouveau Riche and the elderly invest wisely

 

Epilogue

I did know what to expect when I first met Brendan at the Classical Rave in Columbus, Ohio last year. As the night wore on it became apparent that up and until the completion of this interview, he would remain an enigma. When first asked to describe him I simply responded “imagine Alice’s Mad Hatter went rogue, picked up a cello, throwing caution to the wind.” Little did I know how prescient I would be in assessing the man.

If there ever was a time for Walshism to take hold, now would be it. Our collective obsession with convention and protocol must give way to unbridled curiosity and expression of our thoughts, our art and our music.

Classical music need not necessarily be re-labeled and re-packaged, but if that’s what it takes to re-introduce the genre to this and future generations, my money is on Brendan Jan Walsh and Mr Van Walsh, two sides of the same coin.

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