As Aleksey Igudesman and Hyung-ki Joo began their first piece, a cellphone rang. The music abruptly stopped, and the audience audibly gasped. All that could be heard was the phone’s musical ring tone and the audience’s staccato breathing. The two men onstage looked at each other in mock horror and began to play a classical version of the ringing tune — and the audience burst into laughter.
Igudesman and Joo — a classical music and comedy duo — performed their show “A Little Nightmare Music” to a full house at the School of Music’s Morse Recital Hall on Tuesday night. Joo said in an email that their act aims to elevate the combination of music, comedy and theater to its own art form. The show was an unexpected choice for the school’s Oneppo Chamber Music Series, which will host eight groups this year and has never selected an act that deviates from traditional chamber music before, School of Music press secretary Dana Astmann said in an email.
Astmann said she hopes the untraditional choice of the group will appeal to a wider audience.
“It’s a little different from what we usually present on the series,” Astmann said. “I hope that Igudesman and Joo bring in some new audiences.”
Joo said he and Igudesman have been successful at targeting younger audiences during previous performances, explaining that in the United States they are most popular among 15- to 35-year-old spectators. He added that one of the group’s goals is to dispel young people’s discomfort with classical music concerts.
“From a young age on, we felt that the whole business and ceremony surrounding classical music was too serious for its own good,” Joo said. “Part of our aim is to dispel this hesitancy by making classical music more accessible, through performance and humor, to the public.”
Joo, who plays the piano, and Igudesman, a violinist, met when they were 12 at the Yehudi Menuhin School for Musical Excellence in England and discovered a mutual penchant for watching great comedians and performers, Joo said. Both decided to incorporate their interest in comedy and music into their careers, and they formed the Igudesman and Joo performance duo.
Since their beginnings in 2004, the two men have gained fame through their videos on YouTube — such as a parody of Gloria Gaynor’s 1978 hit “I Will Survive” — which have collectively had more than 28 million views. The concept behind their current show is “Mozart meets Monty Python,” Joo said.
While the typical audience at a chamber music performance is comprised of older adults, “A Little Nightmare Music” attracted a significant number of students and young families. The light-hearted atmosphere envisioned by Joo was reflected by the constant laughter and three encores.
“The show was sharp,” Phil Jameson ’16 said. “I really liked the way that they had character and didn’t just tell music jokes.”
Igudesman and Joo, accompanied by 100 violinists from around the world, hold the world record for the most “Dancing Violinists” performing together onstage.