At the South Side's Beehive Coffeehouse, the members of local chamber-music quintet Aeolian Winds sit on a small platform, where the décor suggests a stylish late-1960s living room. As they move with agility through pieces by Medaglia and Debussy, some audience members sit rapt, facing the stage; some type on laptops or read; others pause momentarily to watch as they carry their coffee from the front counter to the smoking room in back.
The performance is the first part of Classical Revolution, a monthly chamber music meet-up, one of about 20 such groups in the world. The event's second half is an open reading, in which amateur and professional classical musicians -- sometimes even members of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra -- have a chance to play together.
As Aeolian Winds finishes, violin and flute cases snap open, music stands are assembled; audience members become musicians. Before beginning the first sight-read piece, the man sitting in on violin announces: "If someone up here is playing your instrument, wait until we get to the end of the movement, and just come up here and kick them off."
"It's like a jam session," says Aeolian Winds oboist Laura Gershman, "but it has to be semi-organized, because you have to have the right instrumentation."
Gershman, who puts together the event with bassist Gino Faraci, first experienced Classical Revolution at the movement's birthplace, Café Revolution in San Francisco. "The place was packed," she recalls. "People were really getting excited about classical music."
Gershman began the Pittsburgh chapter about a year ago. It originally took place at the Bloomfield Bridge Tavern, but has since found a home at the Beehive, which is cozy enough to suit the intimate, conversational nature of chamber music, and relaxed enough for the informality of Classical Revolution.
The event is a great way for musicians to socialize, but it's also enjoyable for non-musicians and those who might not otherwise seek out classical music. "It's people from all walks of life and all levels," Gershman says. "Everyone's just having fun; there's no pretension."
The next Classical Revolution session takes place Sun., Sept. 25, at 7 p.m. at the Beehive, 1327 E. Carson St., South Side.