On clubbing nights when Sam Hyken and Jacomo Bairos weren't blowing lead trumpet and tuba for the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, the pair would huddle behind their iMac to mix electronica beats with the velvety chords of Beethoven. In 2005, that was their pregame ritual in the apartment: fire up the recording software GarageBand, load a single from LCD Soundsystem or Daft Punk, add strings and tinker with orchestration. Then they would go dancing.
From that early experimental smashup of classical music and new-world beats, Hyken and Bairos created Nu Deco Ensemble, a Miami orchestra that will kick off their second season with three concerts from Oct. 27 to 29 at Light Box, at Goldman Warehouse in Miami. Their 26-piece ensemble brings an ambitious goal to their shows, says Bairos, also Nu Deco's conductor, which is re-thinking how classical music can tempt young audiences in the 21st century.
"Let's change the game with the orchestra and make it more modern and relevant," Bairos says. "Classical is always evolving, from the Baroque period to now, and if Mozart and Beethoven were alive today, they might be adding [electronica and hip-hop] to their compositions."
For their first concert of the season, Nu Deco will debut five original compositions, including a collaboration with New York neo-soul singer-producer Bilal (songs with Beyonce, Kendrick Lamar) and Hyken's own "Massive Attack Symphonic Suite." Other electronica-infused compositions include Adam Schoenberg's "Go," Judd Greenstein's "Get Up/Get Down" and William Brittelle's "Future Shock."
For Hyken, 35, and Nu Deco's artistic director, the idea to collide dance and classical music lingered long after Singapore. He joined Miami's New World Symphony in 2006, which led to orchestral pieces with hip-hop activist Talib Kweli, Grammy-winning house group Dirty Vegas and Miami's glitchy electronic duo Afrobeta. But it was Bairos, 40, who convinced him to form Nu Deco.
"Classical music is the most incredible for expression, but certain people feel intimidated by Bach and Beethoven," says Hyken, of Miami. "We feel like we're making the orchestra feel very current."
One way Hyken is modernizing classical is his "Massive Attack Symphonic Suite," a song medley inspired by the music of the 1990s English trip-hop pioneers. Other shows in the seven-concert season, ending April 28, will include Kraftwerk- and Prince-inspired suites, a reworking of Radiohead's "Everything In Its Right Place" and an updating of Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons."
Bairos, a Homestead native who recently moved to Fort Lauderdale, has also turned Nu Deco's attention to his hometown. After Hurricane Andrew devastated the city in 1992, Bairos left Homestead for Juilliard. After moving back to South Florida, he opened Nu Deco in April 2015, and began bussing in students from Miami-Dade elementary schools to Homestead's Seminole Theater for free orchestra shows. One of those schools, his alma mater Avocado Elementary, was where his old band director exposed Bairos to the Boston Pops and the Canadian Brass quintet.
"It feels full-circle for me, giving back to the place that inspired my career," Bairos says. "I wanted to deliver art down there again. And now 4,000 children have heard a classically trained ensemble that has done everything from Bach to Beethoven to Daft Punk."
Nu Deco Ensemble's second-season opener runs 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 27, Friday, Oct. 28 and Saturday, Oct. 29, at the Light Box at Goldman Warehouse, 404 NW 26th St., in Miami. Admission is $25-$90. Call 305-702-0116 or go to Nu-Deco.org.
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