May 2015 Williamsburg Massivemuse

Not sure what to do Friday night? How does this sound? A Symphony, a circus, and a 1000+ person warehouse. Right here in Bushwick.

The event is being hosted by Groupmuse, an online platform whose mission is to bring live chamber music to your modern day livingroom. This, however, will be their biggest event yet: James Blachly of the Sheep Island Ensemble is conducting a 60+ musician orchestra performing Hector Berlioz’ Symphonie Fantastique.

“It’s an incredibly, incredibly awesome piece” says Sam Bodkin, CEO and creator of Groupmuse. “It’s a piece that has a story.” That story is one of love and obsession in the midst of opium-filled visions, dreams, and delirium. A Bushwick-based circus, serendipitously called The Muse, will accompany the orchestra and transport you to a psychedelic, feverish world.

Though this ‘Massivemuse’ is quite different than Groupmuse’s usual events – small, intimate concerts in people’s homes – the goal is basically the same: inspiring people to spend an evening listening to classical music in a social setting. But this event will regale a larger audience with not only music that dates back a few centuries, but also with stimulating visual performances that bring Berlioz’s symphony to a modern context.

“Part of what makes sense with what we’re doing [with this event] is that we’re adding these aerial dancers above [the musicians] to give it that kind of visual resonance, which is very fitting because it was the first piece that was intended to be more than just a piece of music. It was supposed to tell a story. Berlioz was the first dude with a lot of intentionality to say that music should not be merely about himself. It should be part of a story,” Bodkin told me over the phone.

House Groupmuse Cambridge 2013

Groupmuse’s recipe is simple: first, you sign up online to host an event, which is free to do. Anyone can register (online as well), and then Groupmuse sends a local musician to play at your home. As long as 20 people confirm, the concert will take place, with concert-goers expected to a pay a compulsory donation of $10, which goes straight to the musicians.

Chamber music thus becomes a reality in our modern stories and experiences, and, ultimately, thanks to Groupmuse, brings people together, whether in a tiny studio apartment or a fancy uptown condo, whether you have five cats or cobwebs in your closet – the music makes no prejudices. In fact, according to Bodkin, some of the most successful Groupmuses were held in the tiniest apartments as people were forced to huddle and gather together to intimately experience a “spiritual moment” through a beautiful symphony.

As Bodkin adds, “[Groupmuse] is about inducing a feeling of connectedness to the past and to the present through these works of beauty. We want the world to be a more beautiful place, that’s a huge part as to why Groupmuse came into being, but it’s also the need to feel like you’re part of something bigger, and you’re sharing that with other people, and these moments of transcendence that an overwhelming work of beauty can give rise to, I think, is really the key and important thing about Groupmuse.”

Robyn Bollinger at Erin’s

In the end, Groupmuse is a celebration of community, an intimate experience, and an effort to catalyze a new appetite and zest for an often times under-appreciated art-form. As Bodkin says, “These small-scale living group muses and these big group muses are a moment for the entire community to gather that’s been building in this piecemeal way at one key, in one big moment.”

If you miss this Massivemuse event, however, do not fret. According to Bodkin, “it’s safe to say that Groupmuse can expect many many more of these large-scale events.” In the meantime, why don’t you attend a small Groupmuse next week? Or better yet, host one?

Groupmuse and the Muse Circus present: Symphonie Fantastique, at Muse Theater, 350 Moffat St, Bushwick, Friday, July 31, 8PM, tickets: $20.