Personal reflections on urbanism, urban life and sustainable urban design in Wellington, New Zealand.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Raising the bar: classical

Wellington already has quite a diversity of bars and restuarants for its size: not just the usual Irish pubs and Italian restuarants, but a Welsh pub, an avant-garde jazz club and an Argentinian restaurant. However, this only covers a tiny fraction of the potential bar spectrum, and every now and then I get a wistful desire to see something different. Either something that would fill a gap in the current scene, or something utterly unique in the world. The first one that I can imagine is something quite simple: a classical music pub.

I'm not talking about somewhere that plays Andrea Bocelli CDs in an attempt to appear "classy", but a venue that cares about classical music. I envision something a bit like Bartok in North London: a place that feels somewhere between a boho cafe and a gentlemen's club, with recorded music most nights, live chamber ensembles at the weekend, and some ventures into contemporary experimental music. Okay, you may not want to relax to Schoenberg most evenings, but somewhere that goes beyond "Vivaldi's greatest hits" would be great: some Bach, some Satie, some Reich or Glass; and a good dose of Lilburn and Farr to give a local flavour.

A natural location might be in the vicinity of Civic Square: near the Town Hall, Michael Fowler Centre and the planned NZ School of Music. Courtenay Place might seem sensible (I'm posting this from an outside table at The Jimmy, which might seem like the sort of place I'm suggesting, but lacks the intimate and relaxed atmosphere that I envisage), but rather than an existing entertainment district, I think it might work better in an old detached house on the city fringe.

Thorndon is a possibility, perhaps near the corner of Mulgrave and Pipitea streets (between Francois' and Maria Pia's). There are some potential locations between the city and Kelburn: the mock-Tudor mansion on the corner of Willis and Ghuznee would be superb. Somewhere in upper Te Aro could work nicely (there are some nice ones in Abel Smith St, but there's a house in Jessie St, just around the corner from Il Casino, that would be ideal). Mt Victoria has many of the right sort of houses (not to mention the right demographic): a good location would be on or near Majoribanks St (such as the old Roxburgh or its neighbour on the corner of Lipman St). There's also the part of Oriental Parade that looks out over Waitangi Park, including a few formerly grand houses that now house medical practices. Something there would also help bridge the awkward gap between Courtenay Place and the Herd St development.

So, what do you think? Any expressions of agreement or ridicule would be most welcome, as are suggestions for other lacunae in the world of Wellington nightlife.


At 10:34 am, January 16, 2006, Blogger Martha Craig said...

I think the corner cafe (if it is still there) in the Town Hall building (looking onto Civic Square) is the venue you're after. And it sounds very elegant, but not my cuppa. How about the upstairs bar at Il Casino?

At 4:34 pm, January 17, 2006, Blogger Tom said...

Ah, the site of the old "Square Affair" cafe. It's now being used as a convention venue, which I'm sure is useful for the MFC/Town Hall convetion complex, but does nothing for the life of Civic Square.

I'm not so much talking about an "elegant" place as a relatively casual and relaxed one, one that's at least as welcoming to a composition student as it is to corporate patrons of the arts. Something more in line with the European idea of classical music as a part of everyday life, rather than something to prove that you're "cultured". It should also attract anyone who wants a quiet place where you can hear yourselves talk!


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