Tempo RubatoTempo Rubato is a live classical music venue and bar in Brunswick.
All profits from Tempo Rubato go to Piano Project.
We are open every Friday night from 5.30pm. Happy Hour until 6.30.
And live music with free entry at about 7.30. Next Friday: Gintaute Gataveckaite - Piano
The Age Digital Edition: Classic bar's modern tempo
When pianist Josh Hooke was invited to perform at Brunswick bar Tempo Rubato, he asked if he could try something he had never done before: perform in jeans.
Director Georgina Imberger and venue manager Georgina Lewis were delighted. This was exactly what they had hoped for when they converted a gritty warehouse in a Brunwsick backstreet into Melbourne's most incongruous classical music venue.
" It's something I had always wanted to try,'' Hooke says.
" There can be a distance between the performer and audience and I wanted to try and close that gap. The Georgies are really keen to try new things and take risks.''
Tempo Rubato (" stolen time' ' in Italian) is named after a musical term which instructs the performer to use their own discretion to speed up or slow down the tempo of certain passages. The bar is inspired by Piano Salon Christophori, a piano repair workshop that hosts classical music concerts in an old garage in Berlin.
Tempo Rubato has two purposes: to raise money towards free piano lessons for refugee and newly arrived migrant children (all profits go the Piano Project charity) and to make classical music accessible.
All performances on Friday nights are free, a democratisation of classical music that evolved from Dr Imberger's vision of bar patrons being able to wander in and out of the performance space, a grey-walled window-less bunker with LED lighting and rows of foldup seats.
" I envisaged a fluidity of space with no barriers,'' Dr Imberger says.
" Friday nights have a different vibe to the ticketed concerts and musicians love them.''
Tempo Rubato champions female composers and musicians. This month a group of musicians called The Parlour celebrated the bicentenary of Clara Schumann. Excerpts from Schumann's diaries were read between works.
" She was an amazing composer but [her husband] Robert Schumann's works were always prioritised,'' Ms Lewis says.
Dogs are welcome at the concerts - this is Brunswick, after all.
Dr Imberger recalls the faint shock of acclaimed Austrian ensemble Concilium Musicum Wien, when she picked them up from the hotel in her banged-up Suburu and took them to the venue.
" They hadn't had the full intel - I am pretty sure there was a dog at the concert that night,'' she says. By the end of the night the ensemble were propping up the bar in their three-piece suits.
Even the grand piano is unorthodox; a Stuart & Sons by Australian master craftsman Wayne Stuart, which has 102 keys instead of the usual 88.
" It is so different to any other instrument I have ever played,'' Hooke says. " You get this enormous sound without much effort so you have to be careful. It is so radical and exciting people are willing to try new things like this.''
Dr Imberger, an anaesthetist and her friend Erica Martin, a lawyer, founded the Piano Project in 2015. " We wanted to do something we felt was of value because we both love live music so much,'' Dr Imberger said.
" I had piano lessons as a kid, and playing again, very badly, when I was living in Ireland in my 30s, I thought about what they had given me. It was something very solid, a real entry into the world of music, that has meant so much to me.''
Dr Imberger says she and Ms Martin wanted to do something for newly arrived migrant and refugee children, that was not about the necessity of life, but something transporting, " more about what their lives might be able to become'' .
" It was quite philosophical.''
Venue manager Ms Lewis, who is also a pianist, teaches lessons for the Piano Project at Collingwood English Language School.
" I have had students from Iraq and Iran who just wanted to learn Beethoven,'' Ms Lewis says.
One West Papuan girl wanted to learn the songs of British pop star Ed Sheeran.
" I gave in and taught her the four chords that make up most Ed Sheeran songs. She was this beam of sunshine,'' she says.
" They are special lessons for me.''
If she knew how tough this was going to be, Dr Imberger says she may not have dived in.
" But then when the musicians start playing, I know exactly what I am doing. I love it.''
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❊ Address & Contact ❊
⊜ 34 Breese St, Brunswick | Map
❊ Web Links ❊
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