Using tech, ÆPEX brings live classical music to new venues

A new program aimed at getting classical music out of the recital hall and into public spaces around Ann Arbor debuts Friday, when ÆPEX Contemporary Performance stages its first live concert with simulcast viewing.
ÆPEX executive director Garrett Schumann says the "ÆPEX Access" concerts were conceived as a way to use low-cost technology and "manageable" streaming services, like Facebook Live and Periscope, to give people an "unexpected musical experience" in atypical venues. ÆPEX is dedicated to presenting contemporary classical works in innovative ways.
The first ÆPEX Access concert, entitled "Winds/Brass/Piano," will present works by Evan Chambers, Karel Husa, Elliott Carter, and Pierre Boulez at Ann Arbor's First United Methodist Church on Friday at 7:30 p.m. The concert will stream via Facebook Live to a viewing and listening station set up in Ann Arbor's Braun Court, and it will also be viewable online at ÆPEX's Facebook page.
"The potential, per se, of getting a drink or an order of fries from Aut Bar and sitting in the courtyard watching the concert is completely unique to this event," Schumann says. "We hope the change of setting and novelty of the presentation leads people into those kind of special experiences with our music."
ÆPEX used funds from a recent $1,000 mini-grant from the Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation to purchase its own projector and screen for Friday's simulcast, and the organization plans to staff the event with a couple of volunteers.
The inaugural ÆPEX Access concert follows a string of recent efforts by local arts organizations to bring their work to the public, including the University Musical Society's "Falling Up and Getting Down" live music and skateboarding event at the Ann Arbor Skatepark and the Ann Arbor Art Center's POP-X temporary art exhibit in Liberty Plaza last month.
"One of the most meaningful aspects of going to a concert is participating in a communal activity, and we see future broadcasts as another way to organize this communal experience around an ÆPEX performance," Schumann says.
But finding the right technology and a reliable process for on-site broadcasting will be the biggest challenge for future events, according to Schumann, as the group looks to expand its programming across Michigan. January's concert at Western Michigan University will be simulcast at Ypsilanti's Cultivate Coffee and Tap House and the Flint Institute of Music.
Schumann still expects most of ÆPEX's regular audience to attend at the church in person Friday, but he's curious to see how audiences engage with the Braun Court stream.
"We expect the Braun Court broadcast to be a meaningful and unique experience for anyone who should happen upon it, Braun Court's regular patrons on Friday, and anyone who is intrigued by the idea of watching a concert outdoors on a lovely Michigan fall evening," he says.

Eric Gallippo is an Ypsilanti-based freelance writer.

Photo courtesy of 
ÆPEX Contemporary Performance.
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