Svetlana Mochalova and Slava Sidorenko met at the Royal Northern College of Music. Help Musicians UK supported both musicians during their studies. Svetlana received a Postgraduate Performance Award, while Slava was given a Music Education Award.
“We first had the idea of launching our own app about a year ago,” says Ukrainian pianist Slava Sidorenko, who makes up half of the Sveta & Slava duo with his Russian cellist wife, Svetlana Mochalova.
“We went to a seminar where agencies were talking about how they decide whether to take on young artists. We discovered that it’s really tough to be accepted because there are so many good musicians out there and agents often only consider people who’ve been personally recommended to them.”
Svetlana adds: “The message we took away was that we needed to find some way to stand out, something that makes us different.”
The pair are passionate about engaging with listeners in imaginative ways. In addition to performing classical repertoire with orchestras and as soloists at venues including Wigmore Hall, Cadogan Hall and St Martin-in-the-Fields, they also enjoy taking music to new audiences.
Svetlana has played Hacienda club music with Manchester Camerata at Glastonbury, while Slava recently performed as a soloist with the LSO in a series of concerts at the Barbican featuring music from Japanese video games.
As a starting point, they asked how they could make a classical concert a different experience for audiences and encourage people to listen to a wider range of music.
“We thought about taking a stack of music with us and asking people for requests,” says Slava. “And, after considering the options, we came up with the idea of letting people vote using an app.”
They hired a developer to create their app, SvetaSlavaDuo. “Instead of simply sitting and listening to a performance, the app means that concert goers are actively involved in choosing the programme,” says Slava. “They can vote for the pieces they’d most like to hear, either on their phone or using one of the iPads that we have at the venue.”
The first half of the programme is fixed, while the audience votes on the programme for the second half.
The duo calls this approach Music à la Carte as choices are divided into a musical tasting menu. Starters are short, well-known pieces such as The Swan by Saint-Saëns. For the mains, more substantial works are on offer, including Debussy’s Cello Sonata and Schumann’s Three Fantasy Pieces. Desserts are sweet treats and can be anything from Moon River to a Piazzolla tango. Finally, specials give the audience a taste of contemporary music by composers such as Pärt or MacMillan.
“So far, we’ve used Music à la Carte at concerts in Wales, Norfolk and Lancashire. It creates a real sense of excitement, as no one knows what the programme for the second half will be until we add up the votes, live on stage,” says Svetlana. “People tell us what an unusual and original idea it is.”
“It’s been really interesting to see how audiences have responded,” adds Slava. “Promoters often say that people aren’t ready for more edgy music, but that hasn’t been our experience. Listeners love ‘Kiss on Wood’ by MacMillan and someone got in touch to say he’s a big fan of Pärt now, having heard ‘Mirror in the Mirror’ at one of our concerts.”
The duo are particularly keen to take Music à la Carte into schools and colleges as a way to introduce more younger listeners to classical music.
“We played a concert at a sixth form college in Bury recently, and pupils told us they felt unexpectedly touched by the music they heard,” says Svetlana. “They were expecting classical music to be boring or out of date, but you could see they were emotionally connected to the music.”
To make a living as a musician, you have to be creative. It takes creativity to weave together different strands of work to make a living, to make a name for yourself and to reach new audiences. With Music à la Carte, Sveta & Slava are aiming to tackle all three challenges at once.
Blog written by Fiona Thompson
Find out more about Sveta & Slava duo.