The orchestra plays as a large crowd of people listen attentively, seemingly oblivious to the street noise and roaring traffic that can also be heard at this outdoor concert.

The performance was part of a series of free shows on the capital city's streets held by the community-based Luala Concert group, which includes string musicians from the Vietnam National Symphony Orchestra, Vietnam National Academy of Music and Vietnam National Opera Ballet.

The open-air concerts aim to take classical music out of its usual confines of the concert hall and bring it to the people on the street.

The musicians also find a little extra enjoyment in surprising people by playing in a place where most wouldn't expect it, and these concerts also bring classical music to people who wouldn't usually listen to it.

"We need to create an opportunity for the general audience, a routine to help them fall into the habit of listening to classical music," said violinist Xuan Huy, head of the group. "The habit will eventually turn into an addiction."

Huy said that since the free concert series started about two weeks ago, each show has seen larger and larger audiences.

"It is not that Vietnamese people don't have the habit of listening to classical music, but that the music has not been approachable to the general public," he said. "It is usually performed in places like the Opera House and places where people need to dress formally.

The series of open-air classical performances began on November 11 and will run every weekend until January 11.

Fifteen minutes prior to the recent performance, a large crowd including Vietnamese and foreigners gathered around the open-air stage in front of the Music Publishing House at 61 Ly Thai To street.

At 3pm sharp, all was quiet as the performance started.

"At first I thought sitting like this, near the street would discourage me from enjoying the music," said Tran Xuan Tuong, 70. "But I was wrong. When the instruments sounded, I felt deaf to all the street noises. I forgot all about the vehicles riding around and was immersed in the melodies."

Classical music is Tuong's favourite genre and he said he used to think the music needed to be played in a quiet venue.

"I've been to the Opera House several times to attend live concerts. Today I come here to see how the music is performed outdoors. I was a bit curious.

"It is a way to help the public relax and forget their busy life and also a way to bring this kind of music to the younger generations."

Le Hong Ha, a second-year student at the Hanoi University , said she loves classical music but can not afford to go to expensive concerts.

"It is really interesting to see musicians in person and listen to the music directly," she said.

The concerts have attracted not only those who love the music but also passers-by and foreign tourists.

"We were just walking down the street and heard the music," said a couple of tourists from the US who were staying in Hanoi for the weekend.

"I think the idea of the concerts is wonderful. We have never seen any [classical music] performance like this before," said Russ.

"Once they play, everything around fades away. We just focus on the music and we will stay until the performance finishes."

Hoang The Phuc, a cello player, said he felt elated to be part of the team behind the concerts.

"We feel inspired by being closer to the audience, popularising this kind of music," said Phuc.

"Of course, there is a big difference between playing in a quiet concert hall and in an open-air environment on the street. We had two months of practice together to find out a method in which all players can best harmonise with each other in this type of venue."

Violinist Do Cam Ly, 24, said performing at the streetside concert is a joy./.