Local music ensemble CELLOHIO brings in help from Amsterdam to debut the one-of-a-kind event

Can you dance to classical music? That was the question Amsterdam-based cellist and DJ Brendan Jan Walsh set out to answer in 2013 when he co-created the first-ever Classical Music Rave. Featuring classical music playlists and live instruments in an industrial venue, the event was deemed a success.

Now Jan Walsh — also known by his “artistic alter ego” Mr. Van Walsh — will travel thousands of miles to Columbus to DJ a classical and EDM set at “Party Arty,” allegedly the first classical music rave in North America, on Tuesday, Nov. 28, at Trism.

“What Mr. Van Walsh does is take [classical music] and transform it in arty settings,” said Sam Johnson, artistic director of CELLOHIO — OSU's cello orchestra — which is hosting the event. “The structure ... is going to be more comfortable than at a normal concert where you have to sit down and listen the whole time.”

Attendees will have the freedom to dance, play auxiliary percussion instruments, enjoy projections on the screen or even color in provided coloring books. In addition to Mr. Van Walsh's set, there will be live performances by CELLOHIO and local acts Sweet Teeth and Xioma — both of which incorporate cello and explore other types of music like electronic and pop.

“This fusion of genre or ‘indie-classical' … is very much tied to creating art that is new and different and more than just the sum of its parts, [and] more than just cello plus dance beats,” said Johnson, who also plays in Sweet Teeth. “But [it's also] actually playing cello in a way that's unconventional.”

CELLOHIO, specifically, will embrace that unique spirit by playing late minimalist composer Julius Eastman's 1973 piece “Stay on It,” which calls for some improvisation. And featuring music by Eastman — an African-American who identified as gay — is part of CELLOHIO's goal to “elevate works that haven't been heard.”

CELLOHIO recently performed “Stay on It” at the Correctional Reception Center, a state prison in Orient, Ohio. It's par for the course for the ensemble, which has been playing in spaces around the city like St. Joseph's Cathedral and the Columbus Metropolitan Library since forming last year.

“We just found that having a formal identity as an ensemble really helped us get into the community, and CELLOHIO was so good of a name that we didn't want to pass it up,” said the group's executive director Clara Davison.

“People want to hear [classical music] but they don't like the air that surrounds it — the elitism [and] the exclusivity,” said CELLOHIO social chair Sarah Troeller. “So anything we can do to break those barriers is really important to us.”