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Life & Arts

'Tapping Into Something': Beerthoven Concert Series Combines Chamber Music, Dad Jokes, And Beer

InvokeBeerthoven.jpg
Justin A. Scarth
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Invoke performs at a previous Beerthoven Concert

‘We started I 2014 as an activity for the Austin Saengerrunde singing club, and they’re a down-to-earth group of German singers who like to enjoy music with a mug of beer and just keep things laid-back and have a really good time,” says Beerthoven Concert Series founder Daniel Swayze. “It was after joining their club that I got the idea to bring that kind of attitude to classical music, and that’s where Beerthoven began.”

Swayze’s goal with the Beerthoven series is to present chamber music concerts that are a little more intimate and a lot less formal than people might expect. Their shows, he says, are “presented in this very approachable way that kind of strips away some of the typical formalities that some people might expect from a classical concert experience and just make it feel more like a house party. We do that with the help of some good food and some great beer. We definitely go to great effort to let people know they’re in a comfortable place, and one of the big parts of our brand is making lots of dad puns and kind of cheesy jokes. You know, that’s right in the name itself – Beerthoven.”

In a way, Swayze says, Beerthoven is about reinventing the chamber music experience by taking it back to its origins. “Part of my hope and dream is to produce an honest-to-goodness living room concert series that happens in living rooms all over the city,” he says. “And you know, chamber music, classical chamber music, it really was derived from those kind of living room intimate spaces. A lot of the great works that we think of with chamber music – string quartets and piano trios by Beethoven or song cycles for piano and voice – those were all originally conceived and premiered in living room spaces. Maybe with 20 or 25 people in attendance. And it’s really a totally different experience when you have that level of intimacy and you can see the performers up close and interact with them during intermissions. So I feel like we’re actually tapping into something that is right at the heart and origin of what chamber music was meant to be."

The Beerthoven Concert Series is set to start their 2021-2022 season on October 1 with The Invokation of Oktoberfest. “Well, Austin’s biggest Octoberfest celebration was cancelled for this year, and that’s the AustOberfest that happens at the Saengerrunde annually in a typical year,” Swayze says. “So we wanted to do something to fill the gap… and with the weather being appropriate for an outdoor concert, especially at the beginning of October, we thought [musical quartet] Invoke would be a perfect partner for it. And they are a very unique ensemble; they not only play their traditional string quartet instruments – violin, viola, and cello – but they are also doubling on banjo and on [mandolin]. They’re a bowed and fretted string quartet. So a lot of their music has a fusion sound inspired by Appalachian, by bluegrass, and minimalism and classical traditions. So I’m hoping that [the audience] can have a very festive kind of experience and, yes, enjoy some great beer, but at the same time be able to sit down and enjoy a very sophisticated classical concert.”

'The Invokation of Oktoberfest' will be at the Neill-Cochran House Museum on October 1 and at a "backyard mystery venue" on October 2.

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