Top 5 Alternative Classical Concerts

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Acquaint yourself with orchestral music outside of the Western Classic tradition. Be it hip-hop, minimalism, West African, and Indian classical, orchestra's here mingle with the rest of the popular music world.

Chaka Khan & Nu Civilisation Orchestra: ClassiKhan

23rd June | Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, London SE1 8XX | Tickets from £60

For the closing night of her own curated Meltdown festival (which comes with numerous highly-recommended events), the legendary Chaka Khan is performing her album ClassiKhan in full to celebrate its 20th anniversary.

This is a remarkably special event, as it marks the first time she had been backed by a live orchestra. The Nu Civilisation Orchestra have an impressive resume, performing Duke Ellington’s A Tone Parallel to Harlem and Charles Mingus’ The Black Saint And The Sinner Lady as a double header, as well as a big band rework of Joni Mitchell’s landmark record Hejira. They are no strangers to the funk.

Making their debut with Duke Ellington’s Sacred Concerts with the BBC Singers in 2019, they have grown impressively in stature and size, now reaching possibly the height of their career with Chaka Khan as their star.

See the event page here

Speakers Corner Quartet & Guildhall Session Orchestra

Image via Southbank Centre

17th June | Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, London SE1 8XX | Tickets from £25

An event part of Chaka Khan’s Meltdown, this night at the Southbank Centre sees the Speakers Corner Quartet and the Guildhall Session Orchestra join forces for a night of unique classical fusion.

Speakers Corner Quartet, gaining their name from the Speakers Corner event at Brixton Jamm which had the group going up against local MC’s to proliferate an electrifying hip-hop fusion, are known for their downbeat, grungy, spoken word styles.

Now, that same house band take stage alongside the acclaimed Guildhall Session Orchestra, known for their collaboration with non-classical artists, especially their show with RAM Records that saw classical reworks of iconic drum’n’bass tracks.

Safe at home with classical fusion, the best of Guildhall alumni will take on hip-hop/downbeat oriented sounds in maximalist style.

See the event page here

Chineke! Orchestra: Sowande, Kinoshi, Richter

Image via Southbank Centre

8th June | Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, London SE1 8XX | Tickets from £15

Artfully blending tradition with experimentation and innovation, the Chineke! Orchestra covers much ground including Fela Sowande and Vivaldi. The orchestra rotates between three musical focus points: Fela Sowande, Rosie Bergonzi, and Max Richter.

Beginning with Sowande’s signature African Suite, the evening commences on a sparkling note, celebrating West African musical traditions with Western forms, which the Chineke! Orchestra are proven to flourish in.

Followed by Kinoshi’s Handpan Orchestra’s London Premier, Rosie Bergonzi takes centre stage as a soloist, one of the foremost proponents of the handpan. The instrument isn’t well known to most audiences, so here’s a chance to catch a virtuosic performance of it on the biggest of stages.

Finally, the evening draws to a close with Max Richter’s Vivaldi Recomposed, perhaps the most famous reworks of Vivaldi’s corpus of the 21st century. Steeped in minimalist and post-modern forms, Richter says he discarded about three quarters of Vivaldi’s original material, instead opting to loop, phase, and serialise segments of the source material. A great example of contemporary classical music rounds off a revitalising night of adventurous classical music.

See the event page here

Cypress Hill with the London Symphony Orchestra

10th July | Royal Albert Hall, Kensington Gore, SW7 2AP·| Tickets on last release

90s hip-hop meets classical mastery, as the introduction-redundant London Symphony Orchestra share the Royal Albert Hall’s magnificent stage with iconic hip-hop group Cypress Hill. Whether or not this was directly inspired the Simpson’s joke, it will without a doubt come up at the show, as the animated series hilariously predicts the future once again.

The 71-piece orchestra provides ‘classical’ covers of their classics, like ‘Insane in the Brain’ and ‘Hit’s From the Bong’, with the original members of Cypress Hill finding a way to spit bars over the solid wall of sound. They have last year partnered up with San Diego Symphony, but this years performance with LSO marks a collaboration which fans have been wishing for for almost three decades.

See event page here

Orchestral Qawwali Project

Image via Royal Albert Hall

27th May | Royal Albert Hall, Kensington Gore, SW7 2AP·| Tickets from £39

Here’s a special one. Celebrating the world of Sufi music, the consistently-sold out Orchestral Qawwali Project brings Eastern Classical to the Royal Albert Hall in an unmissable one-off show with the National Youth Chamber Choir, London Voices and Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra.

This isn’t just a stodgy classical music show; joined by some of the most celebrated Indian Classical dancers in the country, including Aakash Odedra and Vidya Patel, this has potential to be one of their most exciting ever performances, reworking traditional and popular qawwali pieces on the biggest of stages.

See the event page here