Unexpected settings and collaborators shake up classical music concerts

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published August 15, 2017

DETROIT — At 26, Grosse Pointe Farms native Ivan Moshchuk is an internationally accomplished classical pianist who continues to wow critics and audiences alike. But he’s also something of a rarity: a young classical music fan.

That’s something Moshchuk hopes to change. Through his Detroit Sessions and Detroit Secret Sessions concerts, Moshchuk — who now divides his time between Detroit and Rome, where he’s studying music at the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia — is looking for ways to introduce classical music to new audiences.

Since 2016, Moshchuk, who was born in Moscow, has been collaborating with artists in other genres, including theater and dance, on memorable and unique performances. In June, Moshchuk performed opposite award-winning Grosse Pointe Park painter Birgit Hutteman-Holz.

“I wanted to create some kind of (event) that would re-imagine classical music in Detroit,” he said.

Moshchuk and London-based violinist Rose Hsien will perform selections by Brahms, Franck and Ravel during Detroit Secret Sessions Take III at the historic Jam Handy Film Studio in Detroit Aug. 19. Doors will open at 7 p.m., and the concert will begin at 8 p.m.

A key component of the Detroit Secret Sessions, said Moshchuk, is taking classical music “outside of the concert hall” and moving it into unexpected settings like the historic Jam Handy building, where he’s using the high ceilings and hardwood floors to add to the acoustic experience.

“I really do think that (classical music) is alive and vibrant in our time,” Moshchuk said. “The problem is, it’s confined to certain spaces.”

Using the space and lighting, along with teaming up with other artists, Moshchuk is drawing audiences of all ages. The Detroit Sessions tend to be larger-scale productions — he’s performed these at the Detroit Institute of Arts and the Detroit Opera House — while the Detroit Secret Sessions are more intimate, since the Jam Handy — the site for the Secret Sessions — can only seat about 200.

Peter Kyte is the director of design and development for Bluewater Technologies, which provides sound and lighting for these events. In an email interview, Kyte said he and Moshchuk “feed off each other’s energy and push each other to be creative — usually on a very, very low budget.” The collaboration has proven fruitful because both he and Moshchuk are thinking outside of the box.

“Bluewater has tried to support Ivan’s vision where possible and advise on technical elements and help him create a visual presence in support of the Detroit Sessions mission,” Kyte said via email. “I have enjoyed collaborating with Ivan on ways to create unique performances at the intersection of art, space and technology.”

Audiences don’t know exactly what to expect — and neither do the artists.

“You really don’t know what’s going to happen. … It could be really bad,” laughed Moshchuk of these eclectic collaborations, which are put together fairly quickly — the opposite of a typical concert organized in the classical world, where he said “everything is planned out far in advance.”

While Moshchuk said he understands the need for planning, “a lot of times, there’s no spontaneity left.”

That spark is something he hopes to ignite in a genre that could use a boost. According to a midyear 2017 Nielsen Music report on music sales, classical has the smallest share of the U.S. market, accounting for about 1 percent of album sales.

The first Michigander to win the Gilmore Young Artist award in 2010, Moshchuk earned a bachelor’s degree in piano performance from the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University and completed a residency at the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris. He’s performed on some of the most famous stages in the world, and in 2015, he released “Forgiveness,” his first studio album. Moshchuk also directed a short film, “A Vanished Present,” in conjunction with “Forgiveness.”

“He’s the real deal — he’s not just another talented kid,” Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival Artistic Director James Tocco said in 2014. “He’s a poet of the piano. … He just seems to have touched everyone who’s heard him the same way he touched me. … He has poetry in his incredibly beautiful subjective sound, with all sorts of personal color and tone, and he has wonderful sweep and power when he plays that can simply blow everybody away when the music calls for it.”

Hsien, who is originally from Taiwan, is currently working on her Ph.D. at the Royal Academy of Music in London, and has won a number of awards, including the Yehudi Menuhin International Violin Competition and the Golden Medal from the 2017 1st Berliner International Music Competition.

“Rose is a very exciting rising star in the violin world,” Moshchuk said. “I’m really happy that we were able to bring her to Detroit.”

After the Aug. 19 Detroit concert, Moshchuk and Hsien will travel to London and then Asia for a series of concerts.

Moshchuk will spend a good chunk of the coming months abroad before returning to Detroit. He’s looking forward to continuing the Detroit Sessions and Detroit Secret Sessions.

“With each collaboration, I really start to see the world through different eyes,” he said. “I think that’s key to being a musician. It’s really humbling.”

The Jam Handy is located at 2900 E. Grand Blvd. in Detroit. Tickets cost $20 for general admission, or $40 for VIP seating. Advance tickets are recommended because seating is limited. For tickets or more information, visit www.thedetroitsessions.com or www.ivanmoshchuk.com.