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Orchestra goes 65 feet underground to play for construction workers

November 3, 2017 by norman lebrecht

18 comments.


Forty musicians of the Copenhagen Philharmonic in protective clothing played an early morning concert for the workers of the new metro line, 65 feet below ground.

The piece they are playing is Danish – Copenhagen Rail Galop by H.C. Lumbye.


Comments (18)

  1. DrummerMan says:

    Wonderful! Somehow I can’t imagine a US orchestra, with an American Federation of Musicians C.B.A. ever doing something like this!!

    1. NYMike says:

      Actually, a certain amount of outreach is included in many US orchestra contracts.

      1. DrummerMan says:

        Yes, I am quite aware of that. What I was referring to was that every CBA I have ever worked with — as both a performer and orchestra manager — had very strict guidelines about following certain temperature/humidity/instrument safety/personnel safety conditions. Naturally, they were intended for outdoor concerts, not underground concerts!

        1. Bruce says:

          Actually it looked like there was nothing unsafe or even vaguely sketchy about this gig. So-called “hard-hat concerts” are not terribly unusual for American orchestras, although they are usually held in the orchestra’s own hall which is under construction or renovation.

          “every CBA I have ever worked with — as both a performer and orchestra manager…”

          Ah. That explains it. All the most virulently anti-union management people I have ever seen have been former musicians who turned to management. Work rules designed to protect musicians from injury (time limits, for example — no more Koussevitzky 7-hour “Bloody Sunday”-type rehearsals), and their instruments from damage (oboes & clarinets can crack in cold weather; string instruments can be damaged by rain or strong direct sunlight; I’ve never heard of a humidity clause, but okay), suddenly become nothing more than a means for a bunch of lazy, pampered, crybaby posers to poke a finger in the eye of their hard-working and golden-hearted but increasingly put-upon babysitters with the goal of preventing as many performances as possible from taking place and to make fund-raising as difficult as possible.

          Not saying that this reflects your personal point of view, Drummerman; just saying that when I’ve encountered it, it has always been from a former musician.

          1. Bruce says:

            Correction: “oboes & clarinets can crack in cold weather:” “Cold weather” implies that cold is an issue for outdoor concerts only. I should have said cold temperatures, as I have sat in a section with oboe & clarinet players whose instruments cracked indoors under excessive air-conditioning.

        2. Robert Holmén says:

          Note the indestructible carbon fiber cello deployed for the occasion.

    2. Robert Holmén says:

      New subway tunnels are rare things in America and the company in charge of the digging would probably fret that this hour given to the concert would delay completion of the tunnel by an hour.

      I’m guessing the Danish aren’t so fretful.

      1. John Borstlap says:

        Because they were told beforehand that they were ‘going to be on TV’.

  2. Cyril Blair says:

    What a nice idea.

  3. John Borstlap says:

    Why should a symphony orchestra go down underground to play for the workers instead of the workers getting up, dress a bit pleasantly, and attend a symphony concert in a concert hall?

    It is an embarrassing and cheap PR gesture humiliating musicians, as if to say: ‘You see, we are not elitist!’ It is like using a Vermeer painting as table cloth to reassure visiting proletarians that they are not looked down upon. Such action implies that the existence of a concert hall where musicians play classical music, is somehow embarrassing and offensive for people who do not regularly visit such places. In short: it is CRAZY.

    1. Bruce says:

      The idea that performing a Lumbye galop (composed in honor of a railway) in a train station = using a Vermeer as a tablecloth seems like a bit of a stretch. It’s not as if the artwork is being debased by its performance location.

      Likewise the idea that performing anywhere except in an established concert venue = a cheap and embarrassing PR gesture meant to humiliate musicians and repudiate the existence of concert halls. It’s not as if the orchestra has decided to quit giving performances in stuffy classical venues and will henceforth only perform in “proletarian” settings.

      1. John Borstlap says:

        “………….. giving performances in stuffy classical venues”…. In my own experience, all concert halls are kept remarkably clean and fresh. If ‘stuffy’ is used in a more psychological sense, the association is rather with juvenile football supporters.

        1. Bruce says:

          Nice one 🙂

  4. Robert Holmén says:

    This event recalls a scene in “Wilde” where Oscar Wilde, touring America, descends into a coal mine to read poetry to coal miners and seemed delighted to do it.

    1. John Borstlap says:

      Yes, because of th absurdity of the situation. He also gave ‘lectures’ in the Wild West about the Italian Renaissance for audiences of cowboys and delinquents. The expression of ‘bewildered’ got an entirely new meaning.

      1. Robert Holmén says:

        If the movie is at all accurate, it wasn’t their “absurdity” that he liked about the coal miners.

        None-the-less, John Borstlap, I hope you have saved your receipt from this concert, which, based on your strenuous objections to it in this thread I must surmise you were rousted out of bed sometime before Noon and forced to attend, so that you may apply for the complete refund of what it has cost you.

        1. John Borstlap says:

          Fortunately I got my money back, and it was strenuous indeed, especially since all the time some dirty water was leaking on my helmet and my neighbour was smelling. Also I detected a wrong note at 3:20 into the Galopp, but worse was that post Galopp they played the finale of Brahms IV which made the workers restless, spoiling the atmosphere further.

  5. Anon says:

    Without the intention to film it for marketing, this gig would not have happened. The railway workers were objectified, not generously played for.


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