Now in its second year, the Klarafestival Box is described as the smallest concert hall in the world. A far cry from the plush red velvet of most concert halls, the Box looks like a glass-walled shipping container parked in the middle of a Brussels square. Inside, a grand piano, three chairs and a heater.
Each performance lasts about 15 minutes, after which you can hang around to chat with the performers. In our case, Liza De Dapper, a student at Ghent Conservatory, sang three beautiful songs accompanied on piano by a friend from Bruges conservatory. Dressed in a long grey gown, Liza performed Brecht’s Nannas Lied with professional poise while the rain lashed down outside. Then came a French chanson, followed by an English song.
It felt odd to be sitting there like a goldfish in a bowl while shoppers and school students dashed past. It was definitely different from listening to an orchestra in a big concert hall. “It’s really special to have such intimate contact with the audience,” said Liza.
Occasionally, someone would stop to peer inside. A little girl in a raincoat stuck her nose to the window to see what was going on. “It really brings classical music out of the concert hall and onto the street,” Liza said.
After the success of last year’s launch on Place Flagey, this year’s programme has expanded to three Brussels neighbourhoods. Beginning on Place de la Monnaie, the Box moves to Avenue Louis Bertrand in Schaerbeek on 19 March, and ends up on Place Cardinal Mercier in Jette from 25 to 29 March.
Some 23 musicians have been booked to perform over 16 days. The programme remains secret until everyone is seated so you have no idea if you will be listening to four students performing Bach or a soprano singing a fragment of opera. Seats have to be booked in advance (although you can just drop in if there happens to be an empty seat). They are going fast, so book early to catch this unique experience.