Collectif 9: Young, cool and dangerous
Collectif 9 is nine friends, nine cool classical musicians that play in the most unusual and trendy places in town. The group was founded in 2011 after the nine musicians met to play through Golijov’s “Macho, Cool and Dangerous” for two string quartets and double bass. It’s Thibault the bassist who initially had the idea of creating the chamber ensemble. “This instrumentation opens the door to a tremendous variety of repertoire”, he says. “It allows us to cover the divisi parts without ever being a mass, everyone is a soloist 80% of the time - it’s our dynamic.” The main goal of Collectif 9 is to play classical music but in a different setting, not just in a large concert hall where one must remain seated and silent for hours after a long day of work.
The nine friends want to bring classical music everywhere and try out new things. Ready for anything, they have even participated in a heavy metal music contest! They admit wondering if they would finish the evening with a “pichet de bière” on their heads. They were preceded and followed by two rampaging groups jumping around on the stage and even on the public. “We started with Prokofiev’s Dance of the Knights”, recalled Fred, one of the violinists. “For long seconds there was no more noise in the room. It was probably the shock of seeing guys supposedly as tacky as us with our little violins and our stands daring to appear there! But soon the room started to fill up and people were yelling. We had guys waving their hands and making sign of horns while gesticulating. We quickly carried on with the Presto from Vivaldi’s Summer, and then people went crazy!!” They ended up almost winning the competition! At that moment the group realized that classical music stills “works”, that you just have to believe it and bring it to people.
Don’t take it wrong; Collectif 9 is not just a bunch of good friends wanting to have some fun with their fiddles. And the music they are performing is not some easy listening rearrangements of best-sellers classic but real Piazzolla, Schnittke and Shostakovich. The chamber music group is composed of graduates from renowned conservatories and universities around the world. For now, the group wants to play classical music in the broad sense of the term. Even though they are not closed to the idea of exploring other kinds of music, they claim themselves to be of classical tradition in order to create a clear identity. “I don’t think we need to do pop music to seduce the public. However, to create an accessible formula, we gladly seek the ease and stage presence that pop artists have”, explains Thibault. Collectif 9 wants to bring classical music to everyone and try to find links between what people know, what they are familiar with and the classical repertoire. “The words have never really been said, we never said – ok, come, we’ll play classical music – we just play music”, says Thibault. The group includes more and more pieces in their repertoire and is now ready for concert opportunities. In concert they prefer to play a succession of short movements, which last around 5-6 minutes, rather than the entire pieces to retain the attention of their audience. They mostly play works from the 20th century, since, according to the young musicians, their aesthetics and language are more accessible and closer to the audience they are trying to reach.
Collectif 9 says they are very happy with the start of their career, they feel proud and lucky with the way events have unfolded. It seems like every opportunity leads to another. They are not yet playing in concert halls every month but they are recording monthly short videos. Called “LIVEshorts”, the concept consists of recording a chosen piece live (without any studio editing) and presenting it as a small clip on the web. The idea is to show different facets of what they are, each video expressing an aspect of their group identity. Since the LIVEshorts can be one’s first taste of Collectif 9, they make sure that all musical and visual aspects are consistent, complete and represent the group. In the future they would like to go on tour and summer festivals, adopting the approach of a real music band.
The desire to be there and to make music together is still the main reason for the group’s existence. Their number is their strength. “When you are 2, 3 or 4 it’s more difficult to agree and it tends to become easily stifling. Being nine helps us to stay the course despite the small problems that may be encountered along the way”, they believe. Collectif 9 faces a dual challenge. Keen to keep their classical music fans, they must maintain a high quality musical product. On the other hand, to appeal to a wider audience, they want to present music in a way that will attract people and keep them interested. From punk enthusiasts to OSM musicians, everyone comes to Collectif 9’s concerts and enjoys them. They are young, cool and dangerously addictive…and the living proof that classical music is not dead yet!