A little night music

Music And Makan, an intimate classical music session with pre-dinner snacks and wine, allows audience members to interact with performers and ask questions

Every two months, Ms Beverly Hiong's living room transforms into a musical salon.

With about 20 to 40 people in attendance, professional classical musicians give a verbal introduction to the pieces they are about to play before launching into an intimate performance with audiences a few metres away.

Afterwards, spectators are invited to ask questions and the atmosphere is lively and informal.

Called Music And Makan, these cosy concerts are organised by 29-year-old Ms Hiong, a classical music aficionado who studied economics at university and was trained in the cello at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music.

She currently teaches music and organises Music And Makan full-time.

What started organically as an informal gathering of friends and musicians at her home during Christmas in 2012 has since become a formal event that has seen seven editions so far.

Initially, she had friends and friends of friends over, but interest in the sessions grew through word of mouth.

In April this year, she held the first ticketed version of the event - which was priced then at $50 for the performance as well as pre-dinner snacks and wine.

The next session is on July 23.

For Ms Hiong, the event is a way to dispel misconceptions about classical music and to introduce it to a wider audience.

"I noticed a while back that I had two distinct groups of friends - my classical musician peers who loved the genre and the rest of my friends, many of whom had never been exposed to classical music and found it intimidating and confusing," she recalls.

"I wanted to create a platform that was informal, where I could introduce people to classical music in comfortable, bite-sized portions while maintaining the beauty of the genre."

Many of the young professional musicians who perform at the event are Ms Hiong's friends, peers and mentors from the local classical music circuit, including the likes of Leslie Tan, who is a cellist with the T'ang Quartet and used to teach her at the conservatory.

Audience members are usually young adults, between the ages of 25 and 40, many of whom are new to the genre of classical music.

During the performances, the musicians explain the pieces, the historical context of the music and the nuances one should be listening out for. The audience in turn are encouraged to ask questions and mingle with the performers before and after the show.

Each evening has a different theme. The All About That Bass edition featured the violin, piano and cello.

So far, she has had violinists, flautists, cellists, pianists and vocalists perform and has plans to include the oboe and French horn in the upcoming concert.

Also on board is chef L.G. Han from one-Michelin-starred Modern Singapore restaurant Labyrinth, who creates a customised pre-dinner snack and wine selection based on the theme of each event.

Pianist Cherie Khor, 30, who played at the event's last instalment last month, says the concerts are a chance to educate audiences about her passion.

She says: "Music is a language and being able to introduce the characters that make up classical music in small doses makes the genre much more approachable."

Singaporean violinist Yang Shuxiang, 28, who is pursuing a doctor of musical arts degree at the New England Conservatory in Boston, added that the discursive element of the event was a big draw for him.

"Talking the audience through the music or chronology of the genre can help them see how classical music actually might have a lot in common with the jazz or pop music they listen to today," he says.

"After all, these genres are all built on the same foundation."

For audience member Melissa Goh, 29, watching "some of Singapore's top classical music talents" play a mere 5m away from her was a refreshing experience.

The architectural designer adds: "It allows people who are curious about the genre to experience it without having to spend hundreds of dollars on a recital ticket."

• Tickets for Music And Makan's next session, Is It A Crow? Is It A Buzz?, on July 23 cost $52 and are available at Peatix.com. The event starts at 5pm and the event address will be e-mailed three days before the event. More information can be found on musicandmakan.com.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 16, 2017, with the headline 'A little night music'. Print Edition | Subscribe