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Conducting an orchestra. How hard could it be?
August 13, 2008 4:14 AM   Subscribe

The theory is one thing - but if you have ever dreamed of having the chance to conduct a full, professional orchestra at a major concert then you are almost certainly (*) out of luck. Sorry. Unless you are a celebrity in which case the BBC might fix it for you (full program trailer on YT). Giving it their first go are actors Jane Asher and David Soul, Drum and Bass star Goldie, Blur bassist Alex James, broadcasters Katie Derham and Peter Snow, and comedians Sue Perkins and Bradley Walsh as they compete to be the "Maestro" [i-player link for UK only unfortunately]
posted by rongorongo (25 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh - and a review of the show.
posted by rongorongo at 4:17 AM on August 13, 2008


I watched this last night and it was excellent.

Thing is, the orchestra had obviously been told to follow the hapless contestant's beat *exactly*, including when they screwed up-- whereas in a normal professional situation, the players will play 'with' the conductor rather than picking up on his mistakes and dragging him down.

(I say 'him' because conducting is still a sausagefest, even with stars like Marin Alsop, Jane Glover and Emanuelle Haïm out there.)
posted by Pallas Athena at 4:27 AM on August 13, 2008


i-player link for UK only unfortunately

I'm pretty sure iPlayer Downloader works wherever you are.
posted by jack_mo at 4:27 AM on August 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


Is it a coincidence that all these cats are are white or is being stiff and unrythmic a requirement for conducting? David Soul moves like the tinman... Jane Asher was however magnificent.
posted by three blind mice at 4:51 AM on August 13, 2008


Well, Goldie's black and Sue Perkins is a lesbian, so it probably ticked enough boxes to satisfy the BBC's Diversity Without Scaring The Daily Mail Readers Department.
posted by jack_mo at 5:13 AM on August 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


you are almost certainly (*) out of luck. Sorry. Unless you are a celebrity...
...or you have a shit-ton of money and a fiery obsession.
posted by Wolfdog at 5:16 AM on August 13, 2008


Caught the end of this last night... since when has conducting been about pop-eyed mugging?

And the sound quality unfortunately doesn't do just to Alex James' rather extraordinary inhalation at the beginning of his performance... I though he was trying to breath in the whole orchestra
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 5:38 AM on August 13, 2008


I wonder if the orchestras do their usual hazing and prodding to these guys, like they do to unfamiliar conductors. Such as having one of the violas quietly play happy birthday instead of the written part. If the director doesn't give them an immediate, "now, cut it out, guys," look, then they just let the first violin do the actual conducting.
posted by StickyCarpet at 5:47 AM on August 13, 2008 [4 favorites]


Oh and for a minute I got a bit confused as I thought Goldie was Dom Littlewood who is normally a shoe in for this sort of program...
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 5:53 AM on August 13, 2008


Guitar Hero, Rock Band, American Idol, now this? Let a bunch of people who suck at something feel like they're good at it, while people who spend their entire lives training, practicing and studying music watch these hacks and go.. huh?
posted by ChickenringNYC at 6:21 AM on August 13, 2008


Yesterday I talked to some friends about Alex James's new book, earlier this morning there was an article about him in my morning paper and now here is this post! The universe is trying to tell me something, I think. Maybe I should start making cheese?
posted by soundofsuburbia at 6:22 AM on August 13, 2008


Guitar Hero, Rock Band, American Idol, now this? Let a bunch of people who suck at something feel like they're good at it, while people who spend their entire lives training, practicing and studying music watch these hacks and go.. huh?

Am I the only one who finds frigging Guitar Hero/Rock Band much harder than playing real instruments?
posted by kid ichorous at 7:02 AM on August 13, 2008


David Soul's "Don't Give Up on Us" is a symphony in sound by itself.
posted by porn in the woods at 7:25 AM on August 13, 2008


David Soul's "Don't Give Up on Us" is a symphony in sound by itself.

I've suddenly remembered my mother buying that... oh dear god, the horror
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 8:02 AM on August 13, 2008


It does make me sad to learn that every interesting reality show concept now has to have 'celebrities' involved in some way.
posted by HaloMan at 8:28 AM on August 13, 2008


The BBC has become a celebrity lifestyle subsidy. We teach B-listers to dance, to survive in the jungle, to cook, to eat bugs, to sail, to row across the Atlantic or into rapids, to garden. All at the same time as funding for the good documentaries and investigative reporting is cut. I pay £100+ for this? Not for long at this rate. I was a huge fan of the BBC but lately it pumping out so much junk science and reality tv turds that i can't defend it anymore.
posted by srboisvert at 8:35 AM on August 13, 2008


To me the fact that these people were celebrities was one of the least interesting aspects of the show (I had only heard of about half of them and none happen to be people I care about). However most of them were people who had some sort of background in performance- but in totally different aspects of it: rock musician, dj, one time school-girl pianist, ardent classical music fan, etc. I was more interested in how they would get on given that background rather than in whatever had made them famous. For me the most interesting characters of all were not the celebrities nor the judges but the tutor conductors.
posted by rongorongo at 9:04 AM on August 13, 2008


David Soul's "Don't Give Up on Us" is a symphony in sound by itself.

I've suddenly remembered my mother buying that... oh dear god, the horror


David "Soul" has the most eponysterical moniker in pop music.
posted by porn in the woods at 9:08 AM on August 13, 2008


srboisvert: I think I'm A Celebrity is on ITV you'll find.

Personally, I'd pay 100 quid for the 6 channels + website of Olympics & iPlayer alone.
posted by i_cola at 9:46 AM on August 13, 2008


Am I the only one who finds frigging Guitar Hero/Rock Band much harder than playing real instruments?

Yes, yes you are.
posted by LooseFilter at 2:22 PM on August 13, 2008


Well, Goldie's black and Sue Perkins is a lesbian

Hush. Don't interrupt whining about white people with facts.

The real question, of course, is whether the orchestra actually faithfully follow the instructions of an incompetent conductor, or whether they just play well for the people they like best.
posted by rodgerd at 3:07 PM on August 13, 2008


The Peter Snow clip shows quite clearly that the orchestra follows the 'conductor', its hysterical. At the end when he praises the players, Clive Anderson says 'its far too early to start sucking up to the orchestra just yet". Great stuff.
posted by daveyt at 11:28 PM on August 13, 2008


Am I the only one who finds frigging Guitar Hero/Rock Band much harder than playing real instruments?

No, 19 years of real guitar playing has left me totally unable to play guitar hero, its very strange. The whole 'x hero' thing is very sad to me, in my day (ahem), we went out and started real bands instead of sitting around pretending, (well ok we did that but at least we tried it properly). I imagine in a few years time, there will actually be live concerts where you can watch live band hero gigs.
posted by daveyt at 11:32 PM on August 13, 2008


I imagine in a few years time, there will actually be live concerts where you can watch live band hero gigs.

I hope you don't mean that. You're kidding, right? Guitar Hero has to be the dumbest fucking thing ever. It's like DDR, right, only with little buttons on a "guitar" (instead of foot pads on a stage)?

So, if you can hit various combinations of buttons on the beat, you "win"? How fucking lame is that? I'm a little surprised that adults would play this.

Jesus, I never thought I could hate a video game this much.
posted by chuckdarwin at 1:44 AM on August 14, 2008


I'm sorry, rongorongo, I was seduced by the juicy derail.

I really meant to watch this. I like the idea, and I think it'll be funny to watch people fail. Truth be told, it's because I studied conducting at uni and I sucked at it. "You're conducting music, not whipping a dog..."

Plus, I love Sue Perkins more than a straight man has any right to.
posted by chuckdarwin at 1:49 AM on August 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


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