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Arts Eclectic turns the spotlight on happenings in the arts and culture scene in and around the Austin area. Through interviews with local musicians, dancers, singers, and artists, Arts Eclectic aims to bring locals to the forefront and highlight community cultural events.Support for Arts Eclectic comes from Broadway Bank.

'An intimate environment' Beerthoven and the Tinsel Singers present 'Hoppy Holidays'

Beerthoven

“I like people to feel comfortable and like they can come as they are,” says Beerthoven founder Daniel Swayze. “And I believe that opens people up to a more genuine personal kind of experience. People can have a genuine reaction to the music and feel that they're in a space where they're able to do that. And I think that adds to the artistic experience overall.”

That idea of comfort and connection is the guiding principal of Beerthoven, the modern chamber music series Swayze created almost a decade ago.

“Chamber music is typically just small ensembles of classical musicians, ranging from anywhere around 2 to 8 or 10 players at a given time,” Swayze says. “And we call it ‘chamber music’ because back in the day when a lot of string quartets and the works that we typically think of as chamber music were performed, it was in smaller living kind of spaces, almost like a living room kind of event. So part of what I attempt to do through Beerthoven is to get back to that kind of feeling of an intimate environment where people are up close and having a personal experience with the music. But I modernize it by making it more down to earth and approachable. And part of how we do that is through beer and the occasional bad pun or two.”

It’s become a holiday tradition for Beerthoven to partner with the Tinsel Singers, the vocal ensemble that Swayze refers to as “basically a high-class group of Christmas carolers.”

“I mean, we’ll take it,” laughs Tinsel co-founder and arranger Trevor Shaw. “That's clearly a compliment and we love working with Beethoven.”

Tinsel, Shaw says, performs classic Christmas carols, but in their own unique way. “We have a huge jazz influence – which I know comes from me since I'm the person who put the arrangements together – because my… unique background is probably 50/50 when it comes to jazz and classical, both in my education and my professional life. We don't wear the sort of Dickensian top hats and gowns and those sorts of things. We're more dressed for cocktail hour, you know? Black suits and cocktail dresses. But when you hear the music, the intent is for you to sort of tap into that nostalgia that you have for whatever Christmas meant to you as a kid. And for a lot of us that was things like Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole that we would be listening to as we decorated the tree.”

Like all Beerthoven shows, the holiday concert (called ‘Hoppy Holidays’) will feature not just music, but also beer and other refreshments and a laid-back, come-as-you-are vibe that’s not always what you’d expect from an evening of chamber music. And this show also features magician Dylan Love as a warm-up act; Love and Tinsel will perform on the front lawn of the Neill–Cochran House Museum. “I think what I really like about these shows is it's a little more public,” Swayze says, “We're out in an open space where people are walking by down the street and we always get some people that stop and listen. And I think that's part of what makes that old tradition of Christmas caroling special, is you're kind of being these messengers of joy to the community. We do have a ticket price for reserving a seat in the front yard there, but if you happen to pass by on the sidewalk and stop and listen for a while, then that is welcome too. We're here to share music with the community.”

“You know, you can hear other Beethoven concerts, you can hear other Tinsel concerts, but this unique combination – not just because of the two groups, but the location itself – creates such an atmosphere that taps into something really special in people,” Shaw says. “And I think they leave incredibly fulfilled with this music, with this vibe."

'Hoppy Holidays' has performances on December 17 and 23 at the Neill-Cochran House Museum.

 

Mike is the production director at KUT, where he’s been working since his days as an English major at the University of Texas. He produces Arts Eclectic, Get Involved, and the Sonic ID project, and also produces videos and cartoons for KUT.org. When pressed to do so, he’ll write short paragraphs about himself in the third person, but usually prefers not to.
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