Play With Your Food: The First Vienna Vegetable Orchestra

Classic Arts News   Play With Your Food: The First Vienna Vegetable Orchestra
 
Here's a fine story for Thanksgiving Day, as those of us in the U.S. prepare for the year's most festive meal.

The First Vienna Vegetable Orchestra, an internationally notorious celebrated ensemble that gets its instruments from farmers' markets, returns to Great Britain this weekend, with a workshop and concert on Nov. 24 at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival in northern England.

The 11-member group, founded in 1998, has performed in numerous European countries as well as overseas. (They last appeared in New York in 2005 at Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors.) The players give between 20 and 30 performances a year; because freshness is important, they make their instruments — carrot flute, pepper trumpet, leek violin, pumpkin drum, celery-root bongos and so on — anew before each concert. (Organic produce is preferred.)

The orchestra usually serves fresh vegetable soup to the audience after each performance — though it is not, alas, made from the instruments themselves. (Local health and safety authorities would object, and in any case listeners probably wouldn't wait around for the just-played carrots and leeks to cook.)

An introductory statement on the FVVO's website (www.gemueseorchester.org) says, "The ensemble overcomes preserved and marinated sound conceptions or tirelessly re-stewed listening habits, putting its focus on expanding the variety of vegetable instruments, developing novel musical ideas and exploring fresh vegetable sound gardens."

For the curious — and those who might want ideas for what to do with excess vegetables from Thanksgiving dinner — there is a five-minute video of the First Vienna Vegetable Orchestra on YouTube (search for "vegetable orchestra"). Most of the sound comes from various plant-based percussion, though there is a respectable-sounding recorder made from a carrot (and some kazoo-like noises coming from a bell pepper).

After this weekend's appearances in Huddersfield, the FFVO plays the Transmusicales festival in Rennes, France on Dec. 8 and then gives the first of three concerts in Hong Kong on Christmas Day.

And the beet goes on ...

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