Keeping Classical Music Alive with Kettle Corn

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 Classical music didn’t die out with Beethoven or Mozart. Rockaway native Alex Weiser is keeping the genre alive in a way that breaks down boundaries of contemporary classical music and makes it more fun. Composer Weiser, with his nonprofit group, Kettle Corn New Music, pairs the genre with popcorn.

“It started as a joke with my friends in college at Yale. We were all music students and we would go to this kettle corn vendor down the block after class and we’d hang out and eat kettle corn while listening to music. At some point someone made a joke that we should have concerts where we serve kettle corn. One day I was in Union Square and I ran into the owner of Kettle Corn NYC and brought up the idea of holding these concerts and asked if he’d be a sponsor and he was into it. It wasn’t long after that we hit the ground running,” Weiser said. Weiser and his friends formed the group in the spring of 2013.

With KCNM, Weiser has made a way to present contemporary classical music in a relaxed environment. “We’re trying to bring music to more people by taking it to this great environment where the level of music remains high, but it’s not pretentious. We try to create an experience that is inviting and fun, yet doesn’t sacrifice artistic integrity,” Weiser said.

Each year, the group hosts three or four concerts in which they invite composers and musicians from a range of backgrounds and experience to one stage, while the audience gets to enjoy beer, wine and of course, kettle corn. KCNM’s spring concert “Alice in Wunderbar” will take place at 7 p.m. on Friday, May 27 and Saturday, May 28 at the DiMenna Center (450 W 37th Street) in Manhattan. This weekend’s show will feature vocal and instrumental ensemble Cantata Profana, performing works by various composers. The works include Unsuk Chin’s Akrostichon Wortspiel sung by Jessica Petrus and a world premiere piece “Three Epitaphs” by Weiser, sung by Kate Maroney. There will also be a performance of Anton Webern’s iconic arrangement of Schoenberg’s Chamber Symphony for piano trio, flute, and clarinet and György Ligeti’s Three Weöres Songs. All are invited to this casual experience of classical contemporary music, paired with popcorn and alcohol, which is included in the $20 ticket price. Tickets are available at the door or can be purchased at kettlecornnewmusic.com

Another aspect of KCNM is introducing the people behind the music in a fun way. KCNM hosts a video series in which Weiser or another member will sit down with the composers that are featured in their shows, and chat while enjoying popcorn. “It’s a fun, more intimate view of these composers that shows that they’re approachable,” Weiser said. The video series can be found on the Youtube Channel for KettleCornNewMusic, or on their website.

Kettle Corn New Music is a nonprofit that is supported by grants, donations and ticket sales. Weiser says the movement has developed a following, which he is hoping to grow even further. “We want to share this music we love with lots of people through a platform that is sustainable and create opportunities for new music to be written and shared with an even bigger audience. We want to take people on this journey and keep the genre alive and well,” he said.

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