Andre DeRidder - Photo by Marco Borggreve

“Stargaze” cuator André De Ridder
(Photo by Marco Borggreve)

Everyone who has ever baked Christmas cookies knows: you need both classical ingredients like butter and flour and some funky stuff like a sweet, colourful topping or exotic spices to knock your family’s socks off. It’s the mix. When it comes to music it’s often the same. You think a classical orchestra is boring? But what if it plays your favourite pop song? You want to take a break from the pop circus? Why not listen to some contemporary classical music?

That’s what the founders of the project “stargaze” had in mind when they worked as bakers and concocted a wholesome mix of international pop artists, orchestras, choirs and contemporary composers all collaborating with one another. The event “stargaze presents” resulted from this and will take place from February 14-16th 2014 in Berlin at Volksbühne.

For instance, there will be the British electronica producer HOLY OTHER with the choir Cantus Domus singing to his sounds as well as the New York singer and multi-instrumentalist Shara Worden alias MY BRIGHTEST DIAMOND, who is perfect in combining chamber music and avant rock in a very artistic way. Together with the new music ensemble ZAFRAAN she will be presenting her new album which comes out in spring. Bryce Dessner, more likely known as guitarist of the successful group THE NATIONAL, will show that he is able to do a lot more with strings by presenting a classical composition with a string quartet.

One of the founders of “stargaze” is the conductor André de Ridder. He learned his craft among others at the Royal Academy of Music in London and was always interested in pushing the boundaries between musical genres. NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION asked him about the creation of the festival, the concept and of course about hope and passion.


Pop meets classic meets experimental. How did you come up with the idea?
This has been a long time coming. I have been involved in cross-genre projects and New Music for a while now, most of them developed together with festivals and promoters in places like London, Manchester, New York or Amsterdam. So as far as stargaze is concerned it was founded to start up something like that here and surround me with like-minded people, many of them classically trained but listening to pop and electronic music all the time and being inspired by the ambitious things happening within that music. Operating from Berlin we wanted to initiate our own projects and connect bands and interested artists/composers with ensembles here and develop new projects. The three days at Volksbühne are like a showcase of recent or ongoing work at the cutting edge of contemporary music and pop, as well as brand new projects rehearsed essentially a week before.


Which criteria did you apply to choose the acts and did you have to do much convincing?
We invited these particular artists because they all are incredibly open to collaborative work, have been inspired by listening to classical orchestral or choral music and were excited by the prospect of composing new music with the possibility of including instrumental/ acoustic elements. But mainly because these are musicians whose work we really like. With some of them we already had connections – they are or are becoming part of a family bound by this desire to explore new sounds and ideas.

Some new to this way of working needed some persuading because it can be daunting to work outside their usual confines and working practices, in a way surrendering a good deal of control of what’s happening.


String ensemble KALEIDOSKOP will also performom
(Photo by Adam Berry)

Aren’t pop music fans and classical music lovers two completely different types of listeners? Why could a pop fan like classical music and the other way round?
Interesting. I actually find that most pop-listeners that I meet totally enjoy listening to classical music – not everything, but especially that type of contemporary music where sound is explored in an interesting way, also rhythm. And being absolutely blown away when they hear a live orchestra, possibly for the first time in their lives, as happens often in some of the projects I have been conducting.

Doesn’t really work the other way round sadly: die-hard or old school classical fans have more difficulty acknowledging the subtleties and art of good pop- and electronic music (or just find it too loud in any case).


At the end of every day Terry Riley’s composition „In C“ will be re-interpreted by several artists and ensembles, for instance NILS FRAHM and MOUSE ON MARS. Why did you decide for this composer and this piece?
Riley is somehow the Godfather of Minimal Music and inspired a great deal of electronic musicians with this seminal piece. He pioneered the use of repetitive patterns and looping. So it is probably the most ambiguous piece of classical 20th century music as far as musical genres are concerned. Also you can learn and play the patterns without reading music and Riley specifically mentions “electronic instruments are also welcome”.


Our magazine is called “Nothing But Hope And Passion.” We want to know: which hopes and passions are connected to the festival?
In fact we could subtitle our festival NBHAP. This is all about our passion for music and the exciting things currently going on in contemporary pop music. And we hope that this is only the beginning of things and to create a new hotspot and laboratory for new music and collaborations.

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