Last night I caught up with something on BBC4 about the Scrap Heap Orchestra. If you are in the UK and you have access to the BBC iplayer take a look its glorious.. And if you are not in the UK hunt Youtube and torment the BBC to make it available.
And now I am going to tell you all about it, because after about 10 mins in ( I caught it unplanned by accident, takes me a while to catch on sometimes!) I sat there watching enthralled and smiling with enthusiasm for everyone participating. It spoke to my soul in so many ways. I won’t ruin it though because ..
It was glorious
The premise was this. The BBC Concert Orchestra players were to play Tchaikovski’s 1812 Overture at a Prom Concert in the Royal Albert Hall.
So here is the system change
The instruments they played them on were all made out of scrap in the preceding 11 few weeks. For this task the conductor had asked some the the UK’s TOP classical instrument makers to make them.
Just Some of things I loved about it:
Violinists, being reminded of being 5 again as the first iteration of violin made out of plastic sewage pipe … not so good
Flautist: amazed that all the notes were there.
Bassoonist who got excited at the presence of a particular note
Trombones that looked like something out of TopCat
An old landlady’s bedstead used in the percussion– Brilliantly
The conductor and the violin maker circling eachother over essential improvements to the violins and the Violin maker playing “Properly” by sticking to the brief of using scrap and not merely mimicking what happens already. Both seriously risk taking here to achieve their objective and in the end having to put their trust in one another
The Drum maker and the Drummer ( oops Timps naughty me!) having a range of words that described the actual noise, the intended noise and the deficiencies in the noise from a big drum.
The SOUND POST turned out to be essential. ( see former blog post labelled Dowel!)
How the Players characterised themselves as Artists and the Makers as Artisans and the Artists recognised and respected their dependency on the Artisans. There was no silly snobbery here.
The conductor and the arranger working with Tchaikowsky’s orchestration and making it work
All of them risked ridicule. All of them put themselves out there for each other. All of them had to use what they knew, ditch a lot of things that had been second nature, revisit some assumptions and be creative in a desperate and magical way.
At the end I got the impression that the self styled Artisans, the amazing people who created the instruments had learned the most about their art. But if they did it was a close run thing as people took home bath tubs and plastic pipes to make a sound that had originally been dictated over a 150 years ago.
And the Audience.. The saw, they heard, the understood and they
Stood up to cheer.
Artistry comes in so many guises.
Recognition, respect, intent, trust and play all essential to make this change work