Classical music is often perceived to be elitist, expensive and exclusive and, particularly for the South West, there isn’t enough of it to redress this opinion. It feels like it’s only for older people and has no place in contemporary youth culture. So are the classical artforms dying?
Perhaps in their traditional form they are because the general public have limited access to these artforms in terms of ticket prices, transportation and interest. The concert hall can be an intimidating space with unspoken conventions and expectations so our experience of classical music is limited to recordings, radio, film and game soundtracks and adverts.
We are fortunate enough to be working with the Philharmonia Orchestra on the iOrchestra project which is a three strand programme of classical music activity that seeks to redress the balance and bring classical music into the domain of the general public.
The first strand is MusicLab which is an interactive truck that is touring the Torbay area as I type taking classical music into central community locations. The MusicLab has 5 different activities which enable participants of all ages to engage in making and appreciating classical music and particularly the orchestra.
Secondly, we have RE-RITE which is a digital orchestral installation housed in a gigantic tent located centrally and open to all. RE-RITE took 37 cameras to film and the installation creates rooms in each section of the orchestra so that when you stand in the low strings room, you experience the orchestra as if you are in the middle of that section – you see what the cellists and double bass players see, you hear what they hear. There are various opportunities to interact with the orchestra, to conduct the piece – The Rite of Spring by Stravinsky, and to play along in the percussion room.
Lastly, we have the Big Finish with two concerts – one open to the general public at the conclusion of the 2-week RE-RITE installation and one designed for schools.
This project is a hugely challenging one with significant impacts. When RE-RITE was in Plymouth we had over 12,000 people come to the installation and we learnt a lot about how it works in a tent (RE-RITE has been done before but in established venues) and in a city centre. Our role is to look after recruitment and management of freelance staff and volunteers as well as local press activity and it is a pleasure to work with the wider Philharmonia and iOrchestra team to deliver this programme that is already starting to change the perceptions of orchestral music in the South West and introduce people to the wonderful world of classical music.
There is something wonderful about how classical music transports us to other worlds, makes us feel, challenges and engages both our brains and hearts. I hope that iOrchestra opens the door for people to experience this and to seek more of it as this will drive more orchestral music in the region, to inspire and enjoy.
Claire Eason Bassett, Managing Director, Mackerel Sky