The Bach & Beethoven Experience, or the BBE, offers a fresh approach to classical music through its cross-genre music-making and imaginative collaborations at traditional and alternative venues alike. With its "come as you are" approach, the ensemble enjoys an interactive experience with its fans from its music, its program mascots, and everything in between that emphasizes community. Hailed as “thrilling…charming..performed with such grace..joy and sincerity that a watcher and listener had to be won over" (Bloomington Herald Times), the BBE is equally at home performing across the U.S. at classical festivals like Baroque on Beaver Island Festival, Early Music Academy in Ann Arbor, and the Boston and Bloomington Early Music Festivals, as well as clubs like the Green Mill, Martyrs’, the Beat Hotel in Boston, and more. Led by directors Thomas Alaan, Brandi Berry Benson, and Leighann Daihl Ragusa, the BBE performs a variety of programs each season along with its annual mainstays: folk but Baroque programs, Chicago Stories, and Carols. The BBE has released three albums since 2019: A Gaelic Summer, an Appalachian Summer, and Chicago Stories.
This first work sample is entitled Pandemic Woman, a poem by Lesle Honore set to music by Heidi Joosten and performed by the Bach & Beethoven Experience with Artemisia Vocal Trio. The video is 10'28". We recorded this piece on January 8, 2022 at Epiphany Center for the Arts in Chicago and released the video on International Women's Day, March 8, 2022. We are performing Pandemic Woman again on the Night Out in the Parks series on June 24 and 25 as the culminating piece of a one hour program honoring women. Performers featured are: Alexandra Olsavsky, Kaitlin Foley, Diana Lawrence (voices), Leighann Daihl Ragusa (traverso), Brandi Berry Benson (baroque violin), Kiyoe Matsuura (baroque viola), and Kate Shuldiner (viola da gamba).
This second work sample is a tune called Nottingham Ale that is the finale of our A Gaelic Summer Album. This album was recorded in January 2019 and released that summer. A Gaelic Summer is probably our most popular program to date. It was created in 2017 to kick off our summer folk and Baroque cross-over series that took place at several clubs and bars in Chicago including Martyrs', the Red Lion, Big Bricks, and others. We also performed this program on the Baroque on Beaver Island Festival, Church of Beethoven, and Music on the Hill series as well as selections on the Patti Vasquez show on WGN-AM radio. This program and album features 17th and 18th century fiddle tunes and drinking songs from Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and England. For more info on a Gaelic Summer: http://bbexperience.org/agaelicsummer
This third work sample is a video of highlights from past Carols performances in 2019. We do a different Carols program every year with a run time approximately 90 minutes in length. We've performed Carols as part of the 4th Presbyterian noontime series, Early Music at the Barn, Musicians Club of Women, and others. We explore different carols traditions of the past including the Welsh penillion singing tradition where one improvises lyrics to famous tunes, and lesser known versions of popular carols today. We also incorporate a variety of holidays that occur in the month of December, past holiday games and audience participation within the program. This January 2023, we will record a Carols album, where each track will be released "advent-style" each day for the month of December 2023.
In order to carry out our mission, we focus our programming around four major projects each season that emphasize community: (1) Folk but Baroque, a summer series that explores the intersection of Baroque and folk music including fiddle tunes, drinking songs and other humorous tunes, (2) newly commissioned works written by and about Chicagoans and Chicago communities for period instruments, including our annual Chicago Stories project and Pandemic Woman (3) Carols, an interactive holiday program that traces the history and traditions of tunes surrounding the holidays, and 4) our spring collaborations with other organizations across the city. The Pandemic Woman is representative of our annual new music projects we do in collaboration with Chicago composers and other artists. The Nottingham Ale track demonstrates the kind of programming we incorporate in our folk crossover projects like A Gaelic Summer. The final work sample that is a highlight reel of past Carols performances shows the kind of audience participation we foster in our annual Carols program and others like it.
Founded in 2009, the Bach & Beethoven Experience brings artists together to collaborate and transform the classical concert experience from a standard passive listening presentation to an interactive experience through classical, folk, and new music using period instruments. Hailed as “thrilling…charming..performed with such grace..joy and sincerity that a watcher and listener had to be won over" (Bloomington Herald Times), the BBE has performed across the U.S. including at Baroque on Beaver Island Festival, Early Music Academy in Ann Arbor, the Green Mill, Martyrs’, 4th Presbyterian downtown, the Dame Myra Hess series, Boston Early Music Festival fringe series, the Beat Hotel in Boston, in residency at the Old Town School of Folk Music, Bloomington Early Music Festival, and more.
The BBE aims to make classical music into community, and change common perceptions of classical music, which is often viewed as stodgy, inaccessible, and irrelevant.
Our goal is to build a personal connection with the audience through interactive experiences rather than passive presentations. As part of our artistic process, we choose and/or create repertoire based on the experience we want to give the audience. We also select venues that allow audiences to feel free to clap or shout when moved. We then curate the flow of concerts to allow interaction between the performers and the audience. Classical music has historically been centered around social gatherings, and we resurrect this idea. Through our programs, we venture into bars and other venues - like Green Mill, Big Bricks, Martyrs’ - that aren’t normally associated with classical music. We make classical music highly interactive through mad-libs, games, live-band sing-alongs, and dancing as seen in both our Folk but Baroque pub and holiday ‘Carols’ performances. We create a “come as you are” experience and heed the call to include people and communities who may not always feel comfortable in traditional classical music settings.
Programs for Specific Audience(s) Expertise
We have also done educational programs and residencies with the Old Town School of Music and People's Music School where we held workshops for adult amateurs and also for youth. For the People's Music School we did a composers workshop for students at each of its 5 campuses online. They were able to write short pieces of music about their favorite stories or personal experiences and have the BBE musicians perform their works for them, and give feedback and encouragement.
Bach & Beethoven Experience
222 W. Ontario St.
Chicago, Illinois 60654
Brandi Berry Benson
Brandi Berry Benson
$2,000-$5,000 ($400/player close to home-$500 per player per performance plus travel, housing, and per diem)