Classical Revolution in Chicago

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The Classical Revolution will not be held in concert halls, but the gathering places of the people!

Rhetoric aside, Classical Revolution Chicago provides a chance for performers to break down the fourth wall and play chamber music in non-traditional, casual settings. It began in San Francisco’s Revolution Café, and grew internationally. Classical Revolution Chicago president Allie Deaver-Petchenik and organizer Nora Barton kindly took the time to answer a few questions via email.

What brought Classical Revolution to Chicago?

Nora Barton: More of a question for Allie, I think. The original Classical Revolution began in 2006 in San Francisco by violinist/violist Charith Premawardhana with the objective to enrich the Bay Area with accessible chamber music and create a support network for local musicians.  The Chicago chapter started a few years later with our first chamber jam concerts held at Gallery Cabaret in Bucktown.

Allie Deaver-Petchenik: Classical Revolution as a whole has some roots in Chicago, despite being formed in San Francisco. The founder, Charith Premawardhana grew up in the area. He and his younger sister were active in several music institutions as students and his younger sister’s time in CYSO actually overlapped with my own. I heard about Charith’s work from a mutual friend of ours. Being frustrated with a lack of opportunities to meet other musicians in a more fun and casual environment and anxious to perform the works I love for as many people as would listen to me, I immediately reached out to Charith about starting a Chicago chapter. I think we were the 4th or 5th chapter to form, in January 2009. Our first gig was at Gallery Cabaret and that was our home for a good long time.

Which pieces or kinds of pieces lend themselves to an enthusiastic bar crowd?

Allie Deaver-Petchenik: Beethoven string quartets are a perennial favorite. We’ve even had them arranged for bassoon quartet (which you will probably not hear anywhere but CR). Some other memorable performances have been of the Dvořák Serenade, the Mendelssohn Octet, and, during our International Conference in 2012, a couple Haydn Symphonies.

Nora Barton: Our chamber jam sessions at Jerry’s Sandwiches are usually made up of musicians who happen to have the night off from rehearsals and gigs with a few extra bucks to spend on beer and a sandwich.  We’ve got a handful of loyal regular musicians, who show up every month, and they will usually come bearing some music to read for the first time, or maybe something they’ve been preparing for an audition or concert.  Otherwise I try and provide a pile of standard classical pieces I check out from the downtown public library.  Crowd pleasers include Beethoven string quartets, Schubert lieder, and arrangements of the Game of Thrones theme.

How often do you see regulars perform?

Allie Deaver-Petchenik: Every month!

Nora Barton: Every month!  We have a crew of talented musicians who are enthusiastic about sight-reading (playing music without previously rehearsing) and networking with new friends.  We are always on the lookout for more!

Classical Revolution jams the second Sundays of the month at Jerry’s Sandwiches (1938 W Division, Chicago) at 7pm.  Where are some other venues where you have played?

Allie Deaver-Petchenik: We’ve played at: Gallery Cabaret, Uncommon Ground Edgewater, The Heartland Cafe, Cole’s Bar, Constellation, Millennium Park, Lincoln Park Zoo, Redmoon Theater, Lickity Split Frozen Custard, and several other places!

Nora Barton: We’ve held pop-up performances at ice cream parlors (Lickity Split in Edgewater), parks (MCA courtyard), and even parties in people’s apartments!

We’re moving on from our Constellation series – final concerts are tonight May 23 featuring (my quartet!) Open Source String Quartet [Oops! Steampunk Chicago’s publication date was a bit late!] and June 27 featuring a string trio (details TBA soon!)

How do performers sign up?

Nora Barton: They can contact us at or on our online contact form:

OR on Facebook!

Allie Deaver-Petchenik: Performers can sign up in the ways Nora described above, or can just show up at our Second Sunday jams at Jerry’s Sandwiches. We have a sign up sheet every month and, generally speaking, we haven’t had to let people who want to perform leave without a performance opportunity.

Bonus question: What do you play?

Allie Deaver-Petchenik: Flute

Nora Barton: Cello!  Everything from Bach suites to quiet ambient improvisation to gypsy punk rock marches! Upcoming performances here:

Viva la Classical Revolution Chicago!

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Topics: Chicago, Music

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