Blue Bottle Coffee’s W.C. Morse Cafe becomes a concert hall for a night

on April 6, 2015

Blue Bottle Coffee’s historic W.C. Morse Cafe on Broadway became a casual and intimate concert hall Thursday night as three members of the Oakland East Bay Symphony performed selections from Vivaldi, Debussy and more.

Called “Cup of Classical,” the event was the latest in the Oakland East Bay Symphony’s efforts to bring classical music into the community by performing it in non-traditional venues. The symphony hosted a similar event, called “Bach & Brew,” last May that brought together beer aficionados and music lovers at Oakland’s Linden Street Brewery.

“We wanted to try to bring members of the orchestra into the community and find a way to connect with where people are already at,” said Steven Payne, executive director of the symphony. “We’d love to find new ways for people to find their way to the concert hall, so this is one way for people to be introduced to this type of music and to really get that live classical music experience.”

Cup of Classical

Cellist Dan Reiter performs Isaac Albeniz’s “Malaguena from Espana” during “Cup of Classical,” a live classical music program hosted at Blue Bottle Coffee’s W.C. Morse Cafe. (Photo by Bonnie Chan)

With about 65 people in attendance, Cup of Classical kicked off with a demonstration on how to make brewed coffee using a Chemex pot, led by Blue Bottle Coffee founder James Freeman, who himself is a former professional classical musician. The symphony members — Alice Lenaghan on flute, Dan Reiter on cello, and Natalie Cox on harp — then moved into several pieces by Antonio Vivaldi and Reverie by Claude Debussy. The program, a mix of classical and contemporary pieces, also included music by Isaac Albeniz, Wil Offermans and Ravi Shankar, and an original, Cello Suite, by Reiter.

“One of the joys of classical music is that the format is much freer than so much of the popular music you hear on the radio,” Payne said. “It allows the composer and the artists who are performing the music to explore a much wider range of emotion. Classical music has so much to say. We’re hoping that, through events like this, we can bring that to people.”

3 Comments

  1. Andrea on April 7, 2015 at 1:08 pm

    We actually had 90 paid attendees not 65.

    Thanks a lot for the excellent video and coverage. We really appreciated having you both there!!



  2. Brian on April 29, 2015 at 9:46 am

    Not a single person of color in the entire place. Gentrification personified. Tell me that a classical concert is any attempt to be inclusionary of the existing neighbors, or just another attempt to change both the impression and the reality of Oakland. Within ten years Oakland’s African American community will be exclusively poor and restricted to the flats of East Oakland, just like San Francisco has pushed out all of their middle class African American residents, leaving only the poor in Bayview and Hunters Point. And your publication is a primary contributor to the gentrification taking place.



    • Ben on July 26, 2015 at 2:47 pm

      I wasn’t there because I didn’t hear about it happening, but I do go to this coffee shop occasionally. Does that mean the event was exclusionary? Or, perhaps not every enjoyable event in Oakland is reason for alarm or a sign of gentrification.



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