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Video: Music-lovers open their ears at Classic Album Sundays

23:26 14/05/2017
Rediscover an all-time classic album, in full, on vinyl, with no distractions at monthly Brussels listening session

"What nicer than to sit in a cosy pub and listen to some music?" That is the premise behind Classic Album Sundays - a vinyl listening experience that helps busy city-dwellers take time out to rediscover the art of listening and the joy of music.

It began in October 2010 when Colleen Murphy booked the upstairs room of a north London pub to play The Beatles' Abbey Road, on vinyl, from beginning to end, on top-of-the-range hi-fi equipment, with the lights dimmed and electronic devices switched off.

Her friend Gina Lapsley, who attended every month, moved to Brussels in 2015 and felt she had to bring the concept with her. "Brussels is such a buzzing musical space," she says. "People are prepared to try it and see that there's an advantage in completely focusing on the music - on the words, accepting that some of these albums were meant to be listened to as one piece of work."

Because, the organisers argue, the artists did not intend their work to be consumed on small tinny earphones, or on shuffle mode. As well as London and Brussels, Classic Album Sundays has built up a fan-base of music-lovers in cities from New York and Washington to Oslo, Berlin, Sydney and Fukuoka in Japan.

"We try to create a living room feel," says Lapsley, whose search for a venue with great acoustics ended at the Cercle des Voyageurs, near Manneken Pis. "We turn down the lights, light a few candles, a bit of incense. It's a relaxed way of listening to music in the way that people used to listen to an album. People are astonished when they come for the first time, just how different it does sound."

But there is more to it than just listening to a record. "We start off with some background - music that influenced that artist or earlier works by that artist, so that you can see where this particular album fits in. We also have a speaker who is a music specialist. I like to include the audience as much as possible - the Q&A is really open, we want discussion."

Recent highlights have included Lenny Kaye of The Patti Smith Group discussing Horses, and Abbey Road and Trident producer Ken Scott talking through the production of David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust.

The next listening experience, on Sunday 21 May, is a 20-year anniversary celebration of Radiohead's OK Computer, with commentary from Dorien Schampaert, a Belgian music lecturer at the University of Leeds and huge Radiohead fan. Other events in the planning include a 50-year celebration of The Beatles' Sergeant Pepper, and September's album is likely to be Bjork's Homogenic.

Written by Paul McNally