Raising the bar at Yellow Lounge US. Photo credit- Ashly Priest

This Tuesday, I had the fortune of attending Decca &  Deutsche Grammophon‘s first ever United States Yellow Lounge at 82 Mercer in SoHo.


If you’re wondering just what Yellow Lounge is… never fear, because I’m going to tell you all about it. Established seven years ago in Berlin, Yellow Lounge took the classic idea of classical music performances, and reinvented it for the modern audience amidst a popping urban club scene. The idea is that you take an urban setting, such as the 82 Mercer Street warehouse-turned SoHo event space, toss in formidable classical artists, and make their performances, of all things… accessible. The event has garnered success in Berlin, Paris, London, and Amsterdam before finally crossing the Pacific to New York City.

“Music Is Better Than Sax!” Photo Credit; Ashly Priest

The excitement builds like such- guests are invited to an undisclosed location for a DG event featuring unnamed performers, thus causing the sort of quick and quiet gossip found saturated in Act 2 of L’Elisir D’amore.

But it was the strings who ruled the night, as the evening’s performers were revealed to be Grammy Award nominated Mandolinist, Avi Avital, and rising starlet, Scottish violinist Nicola Benedetti.

Avi Avital, Nicola Benedetti, and Phillipe Quint share a candid moment backstage. Taken from Facebook.com/YellowLoungeUS

The chic setting and open bar allowed guests to mingle freely while enjoying Magic Hat beer and cocktails made with Karlsson’s Gold Vodka, my personal favorite being the smartly named “Mandolin Martini.”

While most guests seemed to ogle at Miss USA 2012 Olivia Culpo and violinist Joshua Bell, I was more keen to chill with my guest Ashly Priest and mingle amongst an array of familiar faces.

I quickly found Deutsche Grammophon’s Head of Marketing Intern Kendall Zini-Jones snapping photos while dressed in an appropriately themed yellow dress and coordinating nails just before bumping into my old school friend, soprano, Nikoleta Rallis.

Photo taken from Facebook.com/YellowLoungeUS

The music started around 8 pm with selections performed by Avi Avital. It seemed as if Avi fed off the unique energy of the space, and didn’t allow the excess noise of some of the event’s less-informed guests to bother him. Rather he engaged all who were in an immediate radius to share what he knew how to do best.

After about thirty minutes, violinist Nicola Benedetti came to the stage. The beautiful performer possesses movie star looks that belie her virtuosic talent. After her first piece, she shook her head and asked “can you even hear me?” and then seemed bewildered at the chatter and said “… I mean, people are talking!” This only made the immediate audience of classical die-hards love her more and shout in agreement. She took a second to think about her next move; like a general determined to defeat the enemy, she just had to overcome the talkers. After a quick discussion with the skilled theorboist, Thomas Dunford, Nicola surprised  the audience with a gorgeously lilting performance of the Gershwin classic, Summertime.

When Nicola finished her set, she returned to the stage for a surprise duet with Russian- American violinist, Phillipe Quint. If you didn’t know already, Nicola plays the 1717 Gariel Stradivarius, while Phillipe plays the 1708 Ruby Strad. It seemed only fitting that three centuries after the birth of these respective treasures, they should meet again to tango to a delicious arrangement of Carlos Gardel‘s sumptuous “Por Una Cabeza.” You know- the piece that a blind Al Pacino teaches Gabrielle Anwar to tango to in The Scent of a Woman. It was one of those perfect moments in life that if you weren’t completely prepared and informed for, you might have missed completely. Here I was, in the heart of the greatest city in the world, front row at a concert while two internationally renowned violinists played music made famous from one of cinema’s greatest moments, all the while on instruments whose own inception inspired a new term for excellence.

Before the evening ended, Nicola returned once more to the stage with Avi Avital for an enthused encore performance of a Balkan folk song. As one of my friends put it “I think he’s REALLY into her!”

When the event ended, I took to the cobblestone streets of SoHo and walked through a still-busy Manhattan to relish in the evening’s gifts. I made it all the way to 85th Street and Broadway for a Cappuccino night cap at French Roast, just so I could allow the sounds of the evening to play just a little longer.