scrapheap orchestra

Scrap heap orchestra.jpg

When I was running my South African opera company, and spending a lot of time in townships, I was blown away by the endless array of virtuoso musicians on street corners playing violins which sounded as good as Stradivarius’s own, but which were made entirely from bits of rubbish, whatever came to hand! An oil can and a bit of wood stuck to it, a bamboo stick for a bow...gorgeous examples of Mandela’s “necessity is the mother of invention” assertion. I found myself thinking, what would happen if we applied this model to the first world, and in particular to the BBC Concert Orchestra, whose principal guest conductor I was at the time. So I commissioned about 10 leading UK instrument makers to make me a whole new symphony orchestra-worth of instruments, entirely from trash. For the BBC Concert Orchestra and me, to play Tchaikovsky at the BBC Proms. A tuba made from burger bar ventilation duct, bassoons from shower cubicle, violins from toilet waste pipe, papier-mâché french horns.....Never has a project had more jeopardy, (the instruments sounded dreadful at first, and many musicians were injured) or been, in the end, more triumphant. I will never forget the Albert Hall ovation it received.