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 ...