Every year, it seems to me, the number of Messiah sing-alongs before Christmas grows by one or two. It isn’t enough for a chorus to put on a Christmas program; they have to also offer a Messiah for everyone to join in. This is one manifestation of a general trend, not only in music but in other fields, to want to get involved: not just to consume art and culture passively, but to take a hand oneself. It’s particularly gratifying to see in classical music, where for decades the trend has been very much in the opposite direction: families who 150 years ago would have learned new music by playing it at the piano now buy recordings or attend concerts where they listen in stony silence.
I always wonder, though, where all those chorus singers able to sing Messiah (which is not the easiest music in the world) go for the other 11 months of the year. The New Dominion Chorale offers one answer with its annual summer sings: four weeks of what one might term karaoke choral music, where everyone shows up with a score (or rents one on the spot) and reads through some of the greatest choral literature. The events are held on Tuesdays, and there are two left this year: tonight, Robert Shafer leads the Brahms Requiem, and next Tuesday Tom Hall leads the Mozart Requiem. (The singing starts at 7:30 p.m. at the Western Presbyterian Church, 2401 Virginia Avenue in Foggy Bottom; admission is $10, with an extra $2 for score rental.)
(read more after the jump)
It’s been interesting this year watching the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra try to tap into their audience’s urge to make music themselves. When they announced the Rusty Musicians event in February - a chance for adult amateurs to play with the orchestra - more than 400 people signed up. They promptly announced the BSO Academy, a week-long program for the same kind of musician: adults who don’t play professionally but are good enough to play serious repertory and willing to spend a healthy sum to spend an intensive week playing with professionals in sectional rehearsals, chamber music ensembles, and lessons. The final performance is on Saturday, the 19th, at 3.
And in the spirit of the YouTube Symphony -- for which, you’ll remember, participants were selected via YouTube videos, in part by public voting -- the National Orchestral Institute is inviting public contributions to its ongoing sessions. Anyone who uploads a video of his or her version of “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” (sheet music is available on the site; click the link above) by Wednesday is eligible to win tickets to Saturday’s orchestral concert; those who submit their version of the clarinet solo from the Brahms 3rd Symphony by Friday can win a free music lesson. I suspect shower-singers need not apply, but feel free to prove me wrong on that one.
These are just random manifestations of a trend that I think is getting to the substance of the field. I’ve said before that a young composer today may write music, find some people to perform it with her, put together a recording and sell it at concerts or via the internet, while playing standard literature at the same time in other venues. It’s not even seen as enterprising: just as a way to do what interests you.
Does anyone have other examples of DIY music, good or bad?
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