As I approached the building, I was hoping a secret knock would be required, and when rapped correctly a thick necked man would peek from behind a speakeasy to admit me. Although The Secret Society has a lounge that pours out a proper absinthe, no secret knock is needed.
The Secret Society is a lounge, a recording studio and a ballroom.
The 1907 building of The Secret Society was once home to fraternal organizations – first the Woodsmen of the World and then in 1947 it was home to the Prince Hall Masons, named for Prince Hall, a black man who in 1775 was made a Master Mason.
The music in the ballroom of The Secret Society leans toward jazz, swing, blues, and country, but the night I went, the Lyrical Strings Duo was performing pieces by Romantic era composers like Mendelssohn. The duo is a violinist from the Czech Republic, Lucia, and a guitarist, Stephen, who graduated from the Yale School of Music.
Many of the pieces they performed were originally composed for piano that Stephen arranged for violin and guitar (their website listed below has some great samples of their music). I was not expecting a duo of violin and guitar to work as amazingly well as it did, plus the setting of the ballroom at The Secret Society is intimate, which offers a chance to make connections among the artists, audience and music that may not happen in a large concert hall.
Lucia and Stephen met as members of Classical Revolution PDX, which is a nonprofit organization, comprised of 200 plus members. The mission of Classical Revolution PDX is to make classical music more accessible to people. One approach they take is to perform in more casual settings, like The Secret Society, where you can order drinks and food. Classical Revolution PDX also hosts monthly “chamber jams” at The Waypost, a coffeehouse and tavern, the first Sunday of each month. Another approach to bringing chamber music to more people is the pricing – chamber jams are free and the Lyrical Strings Duo charged all of $7 for their performance.
As I’ve mentioned, I like opera, so it should come as no surprise that I like an evening at the symphony. I don’t even mind wearing a suit. But, I would go much more often if I could wear shorts and order a snack. Groups like Lyrical Strings Duo and Classical Revolution PDX are doing more than breathing new life into composers; they are breathing new life into the artists and audiences. Listening to classical music doesn’t have to be a stuffy experience, nor should it be limited to a few concert halls and stuffed wallets.
Portland is not the only city with a Classical Revolution. Check out the link below for a chapter of Classical Revolution in your city (to name just a few, there are chapters in San Francisco, Seattle, Denver, the Twin Cities, Houston, Louisville, Chicago, Detroit, Cincinnati, Baton Rouge, New York City, Toronto, Vancouver, Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam).
Perhaps you are a musician with music to share or perhaps you have a friend who just might like classical music if a suit wasn’t required.