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Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Really Terrible Orchestra

The title to this post means exactly what it says, and oh, aren't you intrigued? You should be! Because oddly enough the Really Terrible Orchestra, an Edinburgh-based ensemble that, well, plays terribly, is in fact remarkably successful. They have their own website (where you can listen to them play "Yellow Submarine"), and they were recently featured in the New York Times:

“We are indeed quite bad,” the principal bassoonist admitted. The standard varies from player to player, he added, noting that he himself had passed Grade IV, the British examination level normally taken by schoolchildren around age 12.

“But I have trouble with C sharps — a design fault of the instrument, I think — which means I don’t play them,” he said. “And some of our members are really very challenged. We have one dire cellist who has the names of the strings written on his bridge. Otherwise he can’t remember what they are.”


The principal bassoonist who avoids C-sharps happens to be a figure rather familiar to me: he is the best-selling author Alexander McCall Smith whose No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency books have recently become favorites of mine. When he isn't writing brilliant novels or playing C-naturals in the RTO, he is a polymath law professor. And he was a founding member of the RTO, which was established, according to the article, "to give hopeless amateurs a chance."

The strangest part is this: the Really Terrible Orchestra sells out their concerts in advance. Oddly reminiscent of Florence, isn't it? Aside from the small difference that Florence thought she was good, of course.

Is the Really Terrible Orchestra playing terribly intentionally? Apparently not. Says one orchestra member, "we are actually doing our best. And that’s the tension in which we operate. On the one hand, we’d like to get better. On the other, we know we won’t."

Read the whole article... it's worth it.

1 comment:

  1. I love it. It reminds me of reading about the Rock Bottom Remainders in The Opposite of Fate.

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