“It’s the song that goes ‘bup bup bup BEE-a, bup bup bup BEE-a.”
This is how most conversations with John Devlin go. The conductor, who serves as the music director for the McLean Youth Orchestra (among other conducting posts), spends the better part of his time coming up with ways to communicate classical music in unconventional ways.
It’s one of the reasons he was so enthusiastic when John Coco, the beverage director of Bistro 360 in Arlington, approached him with the idea for Gourmet Symphony. The new concert series, premiering Saturday at Atlas Performing Arts Center, uses food to connect listeners with works by classical composers.
“So often you think these dead white German guys did nothing but compose and send out a piece of paper to the orchestra,” Devlin says. “But they loved food as much as anyone else. We’re trying to humanize them.”
Saturday’s four-course meal and beverage pairings — inspired by classic European dishes and provided by Vendetta Bocce Bar & Tavern, Smith Commons and Beuchert’s Saloon — will be served in a space devoid of assigned seating. The orchestra, composed of a talented bunch from the National Symphony Orchestra, Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and service bands, will perform recognizable classics at the center of the room.
“It’s a reimagining of the classical music concert experience,” Coco says. “There’s usually a disconnect between the stage and the audience. We’re breaking that down.”
Between songs, performers will engage with guests while Coco and a music scholar from the University of Maryland share historical anecdotes.
“If you played the oboe in middle school and you really want to talk to the oboe player, just wait five minutes,” Devlin says.
Devlin and Coco — who raised more than double their Kickstarter goal of $2,000 during fundraising — are already brainstorming for the next concert.
“D.C. is rich with Asian cuisines, and there’s a world of classical music from that area of the world,” Coco says.
Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H St. NE; Sat., 7 p.m., $125; gourmetsymphony.org.
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