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Sunday, February 03, 2013

Underground Orchestra Concert Review

Regular readers of this blog may remember Shaun Buswell's challenge to form an orchestra made up of strangers met on the Tube.  His project finally came to fruitition last weekend and Tube Challenger Adham Fisher has a great report of the night. 

"The entrance queue snaked around the corner of Shepherd’s Bush Empire, a sign of how far Shaun Buswell had come in his quest to form an orchestra entirely comprised of strangers met on the London Underground. Although, not only was he unsure of the event taking place due to low ticket sales, but he would not know exactly who was playing until the night itself due to the perilous nature of this exercise. Despite Australia Day celebrations spilling out of Walkabout next door, the ticket tout was not required.


"VIP tables with gold stars, line names and gift bags were on the Empire floor and people at that level sat at them or stood against walls, below the three reasonably populated gallery levels. Everyone was in good spirits, probably more so when compere Carl Chamberlain encouraged them to talk to a complete stranger before the night was out, as Shaun had done 330 times.

"Kicking off proceedings was a 40-minute documentary of Shaun’s quest and the concurrent growth of his beard, from nothing in January 2012 to substantial in November. Perhaps new hair sprouted with each confirmed musician. He took three days to find the first instrumentalist and then came peaks (targeting stations adjacent to music colleges and the Royal Albert Hall) and troughs (“I calculate that one in 500 people are carrying an instrument [on the Tube]. There are 12 people on this platform…”). One negative highlight was a man who, when asked if he was carrying a flute, replied that it was a violin, it was none of Shaun’s business and told him to go away. That reaction would have been even more worthy of television had the man actually realised he was being filmed. On the plus side, Shaun managed to snare twins, separately, two months apart, at the same station. What were the chances?


"An interval followed, then Shaun introduced the orchestra one by one, including four paying patrons that had stepped in at the last minute. They played pieces by Grieg, Holst and Dvorak before Shaun’s namesake band joined them on stage to present their own songs with orchestral augmentation. It’s You began with subtle string arrangements, building to an all-encompassing, impassioned instrumental featuring a flashmob orchestra of about six in the gallery. The melodica player had apparently come all the way from Barcelona for the event. Conscious of time, some songs were dropped to make way for the medley, a hybrid of movie themes from films which feature the Tube. Hilarity and applause ensued as the audience was treated to Mission Impossible, James Bond and Superman amongst others.

"Aptly deciding to leave The Road until last instead, the D major triplets pounded through the hall, Shaun having written this during and for his challenge, telling us not to give up on something however difficult it might be. He had a crazy idea and felt like quitting, but he went from that first tentative Tube talk to a renowned London venue, and that is just one example of what can be done. This might even see a legacy; I wait to hear of a band formed in such a fashion.

"Ropey at times, yet successful for what it was, the Underground Orchestra triumphed. The audience stood for an ovation, their claps and cheers carrying their warmth and respect towards the stage. Originally this was planned to take place on 12/12/12, but for various reasons it was put back – the first full rehearsal happened on that date instead. Perhaps that was for the best, however, as it was more than fitting to have this show in the Tube’s 150th anniversary year. The primary reason Shaun met his collaborators was because of the Underground, and this showed the creativity and fraternity that being on the system can produce. Transport for London would have done well to list this event in their official anniversary programme. Well done, sir."

Well done indeed and I'm also pleased this happened in the 150th anniversary year.  Thanks again to Adham @directiontravel for the review

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