“1/2 price wine and National Symphony Orchestra” read the sign outside of Acre 121, in that order. This leaves a slightly sad impression as to which of the two Acre’s manager thought would be the bigger draw. But whichever it was, the midscale BBQ restaurant was packed on Wednesday, the first night of the NSO’s newish social experiment dubbed “NSO in your Neighborhood.” This week through Monday, Jan. 9, small chamber ensembles made up of NSO musicians are fanning out throughout Columbia Heights (broadly defined), playing a series of free public concerts at nontraditional venues such as BloomBars and All Souls Church.

Judging by Wednesday’s capacity crowds, it’s already a hit. The other concert that night, at Busboys and Poets, was also standing room only. A totally unscientific poll of two audience members found that everyone had come specifically for the music; 50 percent came after seeing an announcement on Busboys’ Facebook page, and the other 50 percent because their brother was related to one of the musicians.

The selections throughout the week are pretty eclectic, so check the schedule before heading out. Busboy’s customers were treated to a fairly conventional program of a string quartet and quintet by Beethoven and Dvořák. Acre 121’s was all over the map, including a pair of jarring modern works by David Anderson and NSO cellist David Teie, bookended by baroque pieces by J.S. Bach and Michael Haydn. But the highlight was a Celtic reel and a Norwegian “devil’s tune” played by Glenn Donnellan on a garish eight-string Norwegian fiddle. (He also owns a baseball bat he’s converted to a violin.)

“NSO in your Neighborhood” is an expansion of a couple pre-existing community performance models, one with THEARC in Southeast, and the other with the Columbia Heights Educational Campus. But it’s the first of its kind held at multiple sites throughout a residential neighborhood. The NSO had asked participating venues what kind of performance they wanted, then sent around a sign-up sheet to orchestra members, leaving it up to them to form ensembles and pick their programs. Cellist Rachel Young says musicians jumped at the opportunity. It’s something they’ve done regularly as part of their American Residency Program, in which the orchestra hits the road and plays at schools, rec centers, and nursing homes throughout a designated state (this year’s is Kentucky, in February). But so far, it hasn’t happened nearly enough in D.C. itself.

If the Columbia Heights location is a bid by the NSO to reach out to new demographics—-i.e. black, Latino, and hipster audiences—-Wednesday’s concerts showed mixed results. The Acre 121 crowd was just as overwhelmingly white as a typical NSO performance, and the dress code was more Brooks Brothers than A.P.C.; Busboys’ crowd was much more diverse. Both were on average younger than 40, which is a good sign for those of us who worry about classical music’s long-term prospects. In any case, breaking out of the marble mausoleum that is the Kennedy Center and playing to people where they live is exactly the kind of thing the NSO need to do more of. Plus, violinist Joel Fuller remarked, “We don’t usually get to have drinks on stage.”

All performances free and open to the public; some require prior registration. Schedule online and below:

Wednesday, January 4

Acre 121, 1400 Irving St., NW

NSO musicians Glenn Donnellan, violin; Ruth Wicker Schaaf, viola; David Teie, cello; and Jeffrey Weisner, bass, play works featuring a variety of classical composers, eras of music and styles.

Busboys and Poets, 2021 14th St., NW

NSO musicians Alexandra Osborne and Joel Fuller, violins; Mahoko Eguchi, viola; Rachel Young, cello; and Anthony Manzo, bass perform classical works.

Thursday, January 5

Sitar Arts Center, 1700 Kalorama Rd., NW

Professional arts administrators from the greater Washington region participate in a roundtable discussion addressing the topic of fundraising for arts education. To register, visit the Sitar Arts Center site or call (202) 797-2145.

Friday, January 6

Sitar Arts Center, 1700 Kalorama Rd., NW

NSO violinists Elisabeth Adkins, Holly Hamilton, Jane Bowyer Stewart and Linda Schroeder, perform classical works for children, youth and families.

Columbia Heights Educational Campus, 3101 16th St., NW

The National Symphony Orchestra performs classical works highlighting artistic and cultural influences from around the world.

This event is free but tickets are required.

To reserve tickets, e-mail us , call (202) 416-8112, or visit EventBrite.

National Symphony Orchestra
Ankush Kumar Bahl, conductor

Program to include:

DVORÁK: Carnival Overture
DEBUSSY: Clair de lune
COPLAND: El salón México
VIVALDI: “Winter” from The Four Seasons
BRAHMS: Tragic Overture
WALKER: Lyric for Strings
MÁRQUEZ: Danzón No.2
GRIEG: Peer Gynt Suite No.1

This event is free but tickets are required. To reserve tickets, email us or call (202) 416-8112.

Sunday, January 8

BloomBars, 3222 11th St., NW
KINDERKONZERT: Follow That Fiddle!

Almost anything can become a musical instrument, when you look at it the right way. In this special Kinderkonzert, NSO member Glenn Donnellan plays multiple fiddles including his Electric Slugger™ — a violin made from a baseball bat! This performance is designed for ages 4 & up.

All Souls Church, 2835 16th St., NW

NSO musicians Heather LeDoux Green, violin; Daniel Foster, viola; and Lisa Emenheiser, piano, play classical works.

This event is free but tickets are required. To reserve tickets, e-mail us or call (202) 416-8112.

GALA Hispanic Theatre, 3333 14th St., NW

At 2pm, NSO members will kick off GALA Hispanic Theatre’s traditional community celebration, Fiesta de los tres reyes magos/Three Kings Day, the most popular holiday event in the Latino community.

The Wonderland Ballroom, 1101 Kenyon St., NW

NSO violinist Glenn Donnellan and additional NSO colleagues perform with dancers Kelly Moss Southall, Maura Gahan and Gregg Corbino.

St. Stephen’s and the Incarnation Episcopal Church, 1525 Newton St., NW

NSO trombonists Craig Mulcahy and Barry Hearn, and guest trombonists Dave Murray play classical works.

BloomBars, 3222 11th St., NW

An artistic exchange with NSO musicians Alexandra Osborne and Joel Fuller, violins; Mahoko Eguchi, viola; Rachel Young, cello, and Peabody Award-winning Hip Hop artist Asheru and rising jazz/R&B vocalist Tamika Love Jones. The collaboration will celebrate the music of Afro-French composer and violin virtuoso Chevalier de Saint-Georges, also referred to as “The Black Mozart”.

Monday, January 9

Washington DC Jewish Community Center, 1529 16th St., NW

NSO musicians Natasha Bogachek, violin; Zino Bogachek, violin; Eric DeWaardt, viola; and Yvonne Caruthers, cello, play classical works. This event is a part of the Washington DC Jewish Community Center’s Open House and Locally Grown Festival.

The Dance Institute of Washington, 3400 14th St., NW

Performances by students from the Dance Institute of Washington and NSO musicians Glenn Donnellan, violin; Ruth Wicker Schaaf, viola; David Teie, cello; and Jeffrey Weisner, bass, followed by a question and answer session.