Jon Boden - lead singer of turbo folk heroes Bellowhead - joins Bristol Old Vic Associate Artists, The Sacconi Quartet, to reprise Elvis Costello's rich, beautiful and genre-blurring album, The Juliet Letters, originally recorded with The Brodsky Quartet, based on a series of imaginary letters being sent to Shakespeare's fated lover, Juliet Capulet.
Tue 30 Jul
How is your Bristol Proms concert different to any normal concert?
I’m performing The Juliet Letters by Elvis Costello and Brodski Quartet with the Sacconi Quartet so it’s different because I’ve never done it before, or anything like it before. It’s not a piece that’s performed that often as far as I know. It relies on a pop singer and a string quartet, although some classical singers have done it as well. It’s a very interesting piece and one I’ve loved for many years. When Tom Morris asked me if there was anything I fancied doing, that popped into my head and fortunately the quartet were up for it as well.
Tickets for these concerts are available for as little as £5 to make them as accessible as possible - is elitism a problem for classical music?
I’m not in the classical music world so I’m not in a position to answer that. My view is more that the cost is obviously an issue for younger concert-goers and those with less money, but it’s as much about context as well and creating an experience people want to go to. I think people are very open to the musical experience of classical music but the idea of going to a concert hall, and maybe the whole package of a classical music experience, may be off-putting for some. I think it’s really good that in Bristol Old Vic - as well as keeping costs down - they are presenting classical music in an interesting and varied manner and context and hopefully that works to bring new audiences in.
Will you be sticking around for any other concerts during the week? Who are you looking forward to seeing?
Unfortunately it’s festival season for me so I’m unlikely to be able to stay. I’m hoping to see the Sacconi Quartet performance earlier in the day so hopefully I’ll get down to see that.
Is this the way forward for 'classical' concerts? Does the classical music world need to change the way it presents itself?
I've always felt the formality of using sheet music is a weakness for the classical world. Maybe that’s just because I come from a world where one tries to avoid having sheet music on stage. I think ensembles that maybe had a smaller repertoire but memorised that repertoire could be more physical and more improvisational because of having memorised the pieces. I’ve always thought that might be a benefit and I believe there are some ensembles that do that.
But I also think you have to be confident in your strengths. As soon as you try and pretend that classical music is pop music, or folk music is pop music, I think you are onto a loser there. I think it’s important to be clear that classical music is an extremely sophisticated and highly trained world and you don’t want to just drown it in gimmicks, but at the same time I think it’s good to try new things.
What's been the strangest concert you've ever performed?
As a folk musician, I’ve played quite a few strange concerts. One of the strangest was many years ago when I used to play in an early music/folk ensemble called the Oxford Waits and we were invited to play some 17th country dance tunes, wearing 17th century costumes at the unveiling of the dangerous sports society’s human trebuchet event. We had to stand next to this enormous wooden catapult structure whilst people launched themselves across a field into a huge safety net on the other side and play some nice country dance music. That was probably the strangest one.