Really Terrible Orchestra Sells Out London Debut Concert

Classic Arts News   Really Terrible Orchestra Sells Out London Debut Concert
"These musical islands are full of amateur orchestras," writes Scottish novelist Alexander McCall Smith about the British Isles, "but most of these are really rather good. We wanted something that would cater for those who really were very weak players, those who might have got as far as Grade 4 on their instruments and hovered around that level for years."

The author of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series was explaining, in yesterday's London Daily Telegraph, why he and his wife founded the Really Terrible Orchestra eight years ago in Edinburgh. "The name was carefully chosen: what it said was what you would get."

McCall Smith himself plays the bassoon ("extremely incompetently" and his wife plays the flute ("hesitantly"); they got an "overwhelming" response to their call for musicians members ("particularly from clarinetists"), and they hired a real conductor, Richard Neville Towle. The audience for their first concert, liberally lubricated with wine, cheered every piece. The RTO then signed up for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe (which is, the author notes, uncurated and open to anyone), and sold out a 500-seat hall.

"The fortunes of the orchestra continued to improve, even if its playing did not," writes McCall Smith. They have played the Fringe annually since, and excerpts from their two(!) CDs have been played on U.S. National Public Radio, the CBC and Australia's ABC.

Now the orchestra's mission statement, as shown on its website, reads as follows:

    The Really Terrible Orchestra exists to encourage those who have been prevented from playing music, either through lack of talent or some other factor, to play music in the company of similarly afflicted players. The policy of the orchestra is to make no distinction between the various grades of ability and the various forms of music, or time signature. The RTO looks forward to a further lowering of standards, in order to underline its commitment to accessibility and relevance.

Tomorrow evening the Really Terrible Orchestra makes its London debut at the Cadogan Hall, normally the home of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, with McCall Smith serving as host and contrabassoonist. Naturally the concert is sold out.

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