ClassyAF, a new classical music series in Toronto, is coming to a bar near you this summer. Sisters Talisa and Naomi Blackman have put together a series of 45-minute chamber music concerts that will be performed at La Rev in the Junction.

“There is so much incredible classical talent in Toronto,” says Talisa. “It shouldn’t be confined to just the major concert halls. We’re not anti-concert hall, we’re just pro-having great music everywhere. And pro-tacos.”

We spoke with the Blackmans this week.

SDTC: How did you go about selecting the performers? 

Naomi: As ClassyAF’s Artistic Director, Talisa selected the performers.

Talisa: There is a huge freelance community in Toronto, and pretty much every time you meet someone new that you like at a gig, or at music school, or at the bar after the gig, you start planning out when you can perform together and what music you both like. These are performers who I know from one of those places – some even from childhood – who were awesome and excited about performing.


Naomi Blackman, Series Director, Boss Lady, Pug enthusiast

Typical classical music audiences tend to be old white people. How hard is it to convince people that it’s not stodgy and boring?

Naomi: This will be the test! Classical music is incredibly varied, and knowing that our audience is likely newer to classical music, we chose composers and pieces that we think would be more appealing. Our hope is that by performing the music in a Mexican restaurant instead of a concert hall, with young performers in everyday clothes instead of dress clothes, we’ll show this audience that classical music can really be a good time!

Talisa Blackman, Artistic director, pianist, cartoon ninja

Talisa Blackman, Artistic director, pianist, cartoon ninja

What is your favorite piece to perform?

Talisa: My favourites are anything where you’re wearing your heart on your sleeve. Classical music is known for its intimate moments, but it’s also got endless amounts of music where you have to BRING IT emotionally, and that’s more of the stuff that we’re playing at our festival. That music is a really outgoing way of connecting with your audience, but the rewards are that you get tones of energy back from the audience and you can get all swept up in the music together…if you do it right.

Naomi: I no longer perform, but I love listening to my sister play Rachmaninoff, which is why I’m super excited to hear her and Sarah Steeves play the Rachmaninoff Sonata on cello and piano for our last show on July 28.

What is your guilty musical pleasure?

Naomi: 2002 Nelly.

Talisa: I don’t feel guilty about any music!…but maybe Xtina.

ClassyAF runs two shows per night, 7pm and 9pm every Thursday in July @ La Rev (2848 Dundas St W). Tix are $20 for adults, $15 for students, available here or at the door (space provided).