Next week will see the opening of the Up Close and Musical festival with a varied programme of events. Originally planned for May 2020, and delayed once more due to the November 2020 lockdown, Up Close and Musical will be taking place in front of a live audience throughout July and August 2021 in the unique atmosphere of Fidelio Orchestra Cafe in London. Our regular contributor Yulia Chaplina met with Shiry Rashkovsky to talk about the upcoming festival.

Up and Close Musical, festival poster91-95 Clerkenwell RdLondonEC1R 5BX

Yulia Chaplina: What’s the Up Close and Musical festival? It’s a very intriguing name.

Shiry Rashkovsky: Up Close and Musical is a unique festival focused on demystifying the world of classical music through authentic, personal connections between artists and audiences. It runs over four days and includes concerts and events from the intimate setting of Fidelio Orchestra Cafe in Clerkenwell. Audiences can get to know the artists ‘up close’ through the candid interviews featuring in each concert, and in between events over food and drink.

Yulia Chaplina: Is it your first festival?

Shiry Rashkovsky: Yes! I’ve been fortunate to participate in numerous festivals as an artist, including Prussia Cove Open Chamber Music, Keshet Eilon International Music Centre and Vibrate! Festival, so I come to Up Close and Musical from a musician’s perspective of what works and is exciting both for the performer and the audience. Up Close and Musical is a project I was dreaming up for several years; it was just a matter of time – and finding the right venue – before it all came to life.

Yulia Chaplina: Why did you want to do a festival?

Shiry Rashkovsky: I wanted to create something that brings artists and audiences together in a joyful way – festive, in fact! In contrast to a stand-alone event or a series of concerts, I wanted Up Close and Musical to be a longer celebration of the power of music, and of the connection that happens when music is made in front of a live audience. I also wanted to create an atmosphere that allows the audiences and artists to engage freely and comfortably, and I really felt that the events needed space between them and a venue that makes that particular kind of interaction flow.

Yulia Chaplina:  How did you choose the artists and the programme?

Shiry Rashkovsky: I chose artists who are people I admire, both as musicians and as individuals; they are people I’d want to spend time with. I also wanted to create a programme that challenges audiences’ conception of what classical music really is and what it could mean to them, so I was keen to invite artists who push the boundaries of classical music and the way it is performed. For example, cellist Abel Selaocoe combines baroque repertoire with his own compositions based on South African melodies seamlessly; Trio Klein traverse music spanning three centuries with ease alongside pianist Yulia Chaplina; Gabriel Prokofiev draws on a full symphony orchestra for his electronica pieces; soprano Heloise Werner pushes the limits of vocal technique in her compositions. It was also really important for me that each artist curates their own concert programme, so the repertoire that they are presenting reflets who they are as artists and what they want to say with their music.

Shiry Rashkovsky

Yulia Chaplina:  What can people to expect from the performances?

Shiry Rashkovsky:  Something amazing that they haven’t felt in a really long time! It has been over a year since live music was allowed to take place without restrictions, and Up Close and Musical has a unique format which is totally focused on the magical connection that happens when artists and audiences are in a room together. Each event is short – 60 minutes without interval – and incorporates a personal interview with the artist, led by me, focusing on their personal experiences as musicians. Audiences will be able to connect directly with the artists and get a behind the scenes look into their lives, which is something that just isn’t possible in a traditional concert setting. There is also the opportunity to meet the artists between events and continue the connection there.

Yulia Chaplina: People can book tables so is there going to be food and drinks during the performances?

Shiry Rashkovsky: I’m incredibly lucky to have Fidelio Orchestra Cafe as the festival venue – their menu is fabulous and it’s a beautiful intimate setting. As such, there is a mixture of lounge and cafe style seating available. Since all the festival events are scheduled around meals and snacks to allow audiences to spend time with the artists, it is possible to book meals with certain tickets; but there’s no eating or drinking during the performances so that the artists have the aural space to create their beautiful sounds.

Yulia Chaplina: What are the highlights of the programme?

Shiry Rashkovsky: Everyone! Honestly. I’m a big fan of each person that is performing, and they are all so different and phenomenal in their own right; I couldn’t possibly choose.