• WOMEX 20 Digital Edition
  • 26-29 MAY 2021

Why Host the Classical:NEXT Opening?

Reflections from the General Manager, Fabienne Krause

Opening ceremonies can be outstanding and powerful, so we use them attentively at Classical:NEXT. They do not simply signal the beginning of our global music meeting, but set the tone for all they have to offer, bringing to the stage the spirit of the event, underlining the intercontinental and innovative perspective. They are also a draw for the international media, garnering the most of their attention.

Reflecting on past Openings of the very beginnings of Classical:NEXT, we are very grateful that important figures of the global art music community aligned with us to share their thoughts and encouragement from the first moment with their Opening speeches. I can think of people like Daniel Hope or Thomas Hampson in 2013 and 2014, who believed in our new movement and gave us and the whole community the reassurance to keep going along the path of uniting and innovating the art music scene across the globe.

The significant exposure the Openings provide have also been capitalized on by companies to announce their industry news to the global community. In 2016, for example, Dr. Clemens Trautmann, president of Deutsche Grammophon, announced a new collaborative project with Apple Music.

“Create works that tell the story of our time”: Keynotes give food for thought – Deutsche Grammophon and Apple Music announce new cooperation”
- orchestramanagement.wordpress.com -
(Das Orchester)

The Opening is THE thing people talk about during the days of Classical:NEXT. You can feel the hunger of the hundreds of art music people as they get together once again to exchange their experiences and share their stories from the past year. It’s also a clear sign that there remains no substitute for people meeting in person. It’s a very uplifting moment, to see people reunite when we open the doors for another round of Classical:NEXT – when colleagues and friends meet again. And this family-like atmosphere gets stronger and warmer each year, making us feel that we are doing something right in creating a community with deep bonds that share the same passion.

“The first-night crowd of C:N delegates hung around in the vast upper foyer area of de Doelen, sipping on a glass of Prosecco and networking […] and there was an unabashed sense of enjoyment in the air […] What the C:N opening ceremony did was lead by example. Their confidence worked: everyone I spoke to commented on just how ‘relaxed’ they felt, and this created a buzzing atmosphere that spun throughout.”
- Maria Roberts, International Arts Manager -

Each year we adapt to an ever-changing art music landscape, which is reflected by the Opening, while it varies in being presented by different institutions, export offices or collectives with changing focusses. While working closely with us, they select the opening artists and take over production for the first night and every edition now sees curators going above and beyond with their Opening concepts.

The Canadian Opening in 2015, at our debut in Rotterdam, set the bar high for the following years. I can still remember the beginning of the Canadian Opening, like it was yesterday, with the fearsome, deep throat singing and improvisation of Inuk punk Tanya Tagaq kicking off the event. It was as if her voice came from the earth’s core – a unique and unforgettable moment – a rare thing that art, and especially music, is able to do. As a display of Canada’s connectivity and cultural diversity, the variety-packed Opening showcased the excellence of its multifaceted scene, while also demonstrating the platform it offers with a double keynote speech between Martin Hoffman of the Berlin Philharmonic and Yannick Nézet-Séguin of the Rotterdam Philharmonic and Philadelphia Orchestra, and a video speech by soprano and conductor Barbara Hannigan.

Following the Opening, Canada reported numerous success stories, including Creative Scotland booking a tour for Tanya Tagaq, Brazilian journalists promoting the Afiara Quartet project "Spin Cycle" through their channels, Opening performance pianist Megumi Masaki, was programmed by the Barbican for the work she brought to Rotterdam (Nicole Lizée’s “Hitchcock études”) together with Gabriel Prokofiev, and of course blog posts, video interviews and many interactions over social media surrounding the success.

In 2016, the Classical:NEXT Opening helped celebrate the 50th anniversary of de Doelen with Dutch Mountains, a 60 minute, interdisciplinary event that highlighted innovative and vibrant music from The Netherlands. Founder and music director of New World Symphony Michael Tilson Thomas served as the video keynote speaker, with double-bassist and creator of London’s Chineke! Orchestra Chi-chi Nwanoku adding to the list of prominent names who were in attendance.

For the sixth edition, the 2017 Opening asked “What’s the Point?” and featured a small selection of the many projects and people from around the world that focus on common human principles. The performances offered examples of what society can achieve through music, with the Chineke! Orchestra and Afa Dworkin from the Sphinx Organization leading the way and Marin Alsop contributing via video keynote.

In 2018, Classical:NEXT featured a French focus, where the Le Bureau Export (French export office) presented a French Opening, entitled “What the France?!” They also introduced the supposed “inaccessible” French market to the delegates throughout the expo, conference and showcases with various networking formats and displays of French artistic content, as well as promoting French enterprises, platforms and start-ups. Classical:NEXT took the international community on a trip to France for the four days of the event. By hosting the Opening and incorporating a French focus, the number of French delegates and companies in attendance set a new record, with a 65% increase in participation.

Falling in line with the headline for this year’s edition '21st Century Polyphony: More voices, greater symphonies', the collaboration between women-led National Sawdust and Classical:NEXT encompasses the ongoing commitment to giving a voice to groups that are often underrepresented in leadership, on the podium or in audiences.

This year Brooklyn incubator and music venue National Sawdust is making their European debut by presenting the Opening of Classical:NEXT 2019. Curated by composer and National Sawdust co-founder and artistic director Paola Prestini and produced by Holly Hunter, director of National Sawdust Projects, the Opening brings a series of high-caliber performances and electrifying new compositional voices to the stage.

With this year’s opening, we kill two birds with one stone. While matching the focus of giving a voice to underrepresented groups, we also highlight the importance of the United States and the need to be connected in order to bring the perspectives and the artistic content from across the pond. The idea for this year’s opening “Hear it New!” was therefore a natural choice. America is still the land of endless opportunity and a field for experimentation in general, whereas other countries sometimes tend to choose stability over taking risks. America is upfront in creating new ideas and this is something that the art music community can undoubtedly learn from to free new ideas and unleash an endless stream of new possibilities.

The “Call for Opening Hosts” for Classical:NEXT 2020 is open once again and the team is excited to get new proposals within the next months. More information is available here