Classic Album Sundays at Bellwether

At the US debut of Colleen Murphy's "Classic Album Sundays," to be held March 11 at Bellwether, listeners will be treated to Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

Sunday, March 11, Time TBA: Classic Album Sundays, Colleen Murphy’s popular UK event, makes its US debut at the new Bellwether venue (594 Union Avenue, Williamsburg, Brooklyn).

With Classic Album Sundays, Colleen “Cosmo” Murphy shares her passions for great music and high-quality sound, inviting guests to listen to an entire record, from beginning to end, on vinyl.

The event, purely a labor of love, started in a pub in London and quickly gained momentum. Stereophile’s Michael Fremer reported on Murphy’s presentation of Syd Barrett’s The Madcap Laughs (1970) in our July 2011 issue. Since then, Classic Album Sundays has only become more popular, gaining praise from the BBC, NME, The Guardian, and Elle, as well as spawning similar events in other major cities.

Brooklyn is just the first US stop for Murphy, who intends to organize Sunday evening events at venues across the country.

She says the event is about sharing, listening, and educating: Attendees are asked to turn off their cell phones, to refrain from unnecessary conversation, and to immerse themselves in the music. Guest presenters discuss the cultural, social, and musical context of the album. In this way, attendees learn about great albums and get to experience those albums through high-quality systems. “The events are often very emotional,” Colleen said during a recent phone conference, explaining that listeners are surprised by the clarity and impact of the music.

A recent event featured the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds. “We were surprised by the turnout,” Murphy said, noting that the audience was made of listeners from many age groups. During the event, the host explained the relevancy of Pet Sounds to the work of current bands like Animal Collective and Grizzly Bear.

Initially, the gear for these events was provided by Murphy—several similar events were held in her own home—but when the event grew into larger venues, the gear was supplied by local dealers. When I spoke to Murphy earlier this week, she was under a bit of stress: She still needed a turntable and equipment rack for the March 11th event at Bellwether.

The mission of Classic Album Sundays is to appreciate classic albums as living works of art and to enable people to listen to the music in a deeper way as opposed to a low-res MP3 on shuffle on crappy tinny earbuds. Most people either cannot afford or are unwilling to spend their hard-earned dollars on a luxury hi-fi, so CAS gives listeners an opportunity to truly geek out.

This is a cause that I completely and happily support. I’ll look forward to the first of what I hope will be many Classic Album Sundays, and I think I might even start my own regular event in Jersey City.