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Jun. 07 2012

Can flash mobs save classical music?

By Dyana Neal | Posted in Host Blogs | 2 Comments

Classical music fans are constantly searching for ways to introduce this wonderful art form to others. Those of us who make a living by writing, performing, teaching, or *ahem* playing the stuff on the radio tend to feel an extra sense of urgency – not only would we like to attract new fans, we want to keep our jobs! So, how do we get more newbies interested in Mozart, Bizet, et al? Perhaps we should sneak up on them.

No, I’m not suggesting we should kidnap unsuspecting strangers off the street & drag them into the opera house or symphony hall, although that’s an interesting concept. I think the world needs more classical music flash mobs.  My recent Google search for “classical music flash mob” yielded 377,000 results, while one for “opera flash mob” returned 2,890,000 (take that, vocal music haters!) Granted, some of these events have been blogged about or otherwise shared many times, but the fact remains that they are being seen & heard by millions of people, worldwide. Students & other young artists have performed in them, but professionals – some as famous as Yo-Yo Ma & Renee Fleming – have also joined in. This March, Mr. Ma & Ms. Fleming joined a group of high school musicians & members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in a food court, where they performed classical & patriotic music to the delight of a lunchtime crowd.  The flash mob was organized by Citizen Musician, an CSO-run initiative that calls on musicians to use their talents as community-building tools.  As to why two renowned artists would donate their time to such an effort, Mr. Ma said, “We do believe so much in the importance of music and the arts not just in the concert hall, but in our everyday lives.”

Yesterday, a friend posted the following flash mob video, featuring two excerpts from Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana,  on Facebook. The actual event took place in the Westbanhof, a/k/a the biggest train station in Vienna, on April 27th, & was organized by the Volksoper Wien.


I’ve no evidence that this flash mob or any other has since inspired onlookers to buy a recording or concert tickets, nor, alas, can I assure you that it made them classical radio fans. I do suspect, though, that such events have introduced more than a few people to music they’ve never heard before, & in our increasingly noisy, niche-marketed world, isn’t that a big part of the battle?

Also, why doesn’t anything this cool ever happen while Jim & I are waiting for a train?




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Dyana is WBJC's midday host. Her full bio can be read here.

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