What happens when leading musicians are the guides for a first experience of live classical music? This is the question behind Encounters, a new Southbank Centre project which launches in autumn 2019.

Most people get their first taste of music and the arts because they’re invited to come along by someone who loves it. But if you don’t know anyone who regularly visits a concert hall themselves, that first invitation may be harder to come by.

A dozen leading conductors, instrumentalists, singers and composers are taking part in Encounters. Each has picked a Southbank Centre concert that they’d love to hear; they will be joined for the evening by a small group of concert newcomers. 

Classical music concerts so often seem like a closed door (or several) to those who have never attended one. A stuffy private club: elitist, pompous and inaccessible… Classical music – with its passion, its emotion, its stimulation, its rich fascination – belongs to all of us and I’m delighted to be a part of introducing people for the first time to its allure.
Stephen Hough, pianist
I’m very interested to hear what those new to classical concert going make of the experience; it’s easy to make assumptions on both sides and I think a few myths might get debunked along the way. Let’s hope so.
Marin Alsop, conductor

The aim is simply to offer the best possible introduction to live classical music – and what better way than in the company of someone who loves and lives music? 

Those invited to take part include people who have experienced homelessness, isolated young and older people, carers and those who are part of the fabric of our local community but have never been to a concert: the people who keep the buildings clean, the trains running or serve you coffee. 

And if they enjoy their first classical experience, Southbank Centre is welcoming them – and a guest – back for a second time, and this time they decide what they want to hear.

This section will be updated with news and views as the project develops.