Jennifer Elowitch has been playing classical music all her life. She would like to continue doing so.

The key to ensuring that happens is attracting new fans.

“Classical music is not going to keep thriving if it’s only formal tuxedos and ‘Sit here and shut up and let us play for you,’ ” said Elowitch, a violin player and artistic director of the Portland Chamber Music Festival. “We have to adapt. One way to do that is to play in spaces that are not traditional spaces, where people don’t have to ask what to wear and when to clap.”

That will happen next week, when the chamber festival hosts a casual concert at Space Gallery in Portland. The program, “Handshakes, Songs and Dances,” features contemporary music and a lineup of performers that includes Charles Dimmick, concertmaster for the Portland Symphony Orchestra.

The concert, set for 8 p.m. May 15, marks the fourth time the chamber festival has collaborated with Space. Elowitch loves playing in the downtown gallery because the atmosphere is low key.

People are not expected to dress up, and no one cares if someone claps at the “wrong” time.

There is no wrong time at these shows, Elowitch said, noting that the sound of bottles clinking is part of the atmosphere. Cocktail hour begins at 7 p.m.

“It’s a step toward chilling out,” she said. “I want people to know it’s still classical music and we have a good time. Those are not exclusive.”

In addition to Dimmick and Elowitch on violin, the performers include cellist Jennifer Lucht, a Boston Pops colleague of Elowitch’s, and violist Ralph Farris, a founding member of the New York-based quartet Ethel. Farris is a fill-in. The musician originally hired to play viola had to cancel, so Elowitch tapped Farris.

They played in a youth orchestra together, and reconnected when Ethel came to town for a Portland Ovations concert.

They will perform three string quartets. First up is “Ramshackle Songs” by Rome Prize winner Dan Visconti. He wrote the piece in 2009, and was inspired by Tin Pan Alley with hints of Gershwin and Berlin.

Scott Ordway, a visiting composer at Bates College in Lewiston, wrote “Handshakes” in 2010 as an homage to famous composers. It’s a series of micro-works. Ordway will talk about his music before the performance.

Closing out the program is John Adams’ “John’s Book of Alleged Dances,” which includes prepared piano parts that will be looped on CD.

The spring concert is a prelude to the summer festival, set for Aug. 14-23 at Abromson Center at the University of Southern Maine, Portland.

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: pphbkeyes

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