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Tune In to the YouTube Symphony Orchestra in Sydney

It will be perhaps the most-watched classical concert in history: the YouTube Symphony Orchestra 2011 will be seen by millions around the world on March 20, when the ensemble caps a week’s worth of events in Australia with a blockbuster final concert at the Sydney Opera House that will be streamed live and then on a continuous loop through the day at  YouTube gets two billion views a day, and, in the hours leading up to the March 20 concert, every YouTube page across the globe will have a ticker suggesting that viewers tune in.  Seen by the world, the YouTube Symphony Orchestra is also drawn from around the world, with members from more than 33 countries.  Led by artistic director Michael Tilson Thomas, the 2011 incarnation of the YouTube Symphony Orchestra will perform a dazzling finale of music by composers from Australia, Asia, Europe, and the Americas, joined by a top-rank lineup of soloists – including, by video link, superstar soprano Renée Fleming.

Covering the YouTube Symphony Orchestra’s week of rehearsals, master classes, and concerts in Sidney for the Times of London, critic Richard Morrison wrote:

“Did a collision of new and old technologies ever produce such an exhilarating noise?  Below the soaring sails of the Sydney Opera House, 101 musicians from 33 countries rehearse Stravinsky’s The Firebird under the direction of the American conductor Michael Tilson Thomas.  But ‘rehearse’ doesn’t begin to describe the urgency and energy of this process.  Until four days ago the 101 had never met, except in cyberspace.  Some had never left their own country, let alone performed in the world’s most recognizable opera house.  In four days’ time they will never meet again – at least, not en masse.  But in this frantic week, they must rehearse and perform five different concerts, including a Grand Finale on Sunday that will be streamed live round the world.  Will they get on?  Will they find enough in common to outweigh differences in culture, language, levels of experience, and age (14 to 49)?  ‘This is like meeting someone via an online dating service – but multiplied by 100,’ Tilson Thomas quips wryly during a break.  They were brought together partly by a love of music, but chiefly by the power of Google.  For this is the YouTube Symphony Orchestra, the most delightfully incongruous alliance of the arts and the Internet yet to emerge in the 21st century… .  What’s in it for Google?  Well, so far, an incredible ten million people have watched the YouTube Symphony Orchestra channel.  Who said classical music was dead? 

Along with Fleming, the world-class artists joining Tilson Thomas and the young musicians of the YouTube Symphony Orchestra 2011 onstage in Sydney include violinists Richard Tognetti, Colin Jacobsen, and Stefan Jackiw, organist Cameron Carpenter, percussion group Synergy, and conductor Ilyich Rivas.  The program showcases an ambitious piece especially written for the YouTube Symphony Orchestra 2011: American composer Mason Bates’s Mothership.  Australian composer Nigel Westlake’s Omphalo Centric Lecture for didgeridoo and percussion is also on the bill, along with a piece by Iran’s Siamek Aghaei and classics ranging from Bach, Mozart, and Mendelssohn to Stravinsky, Britten, and Ginastera, plus rare gems by Richard Strauss and the Australian-born Percy Grainger.  (The complete program and soloist lineup is listed below.)

The YouTube Symphony Orchestra ( is a global online collaborative ensemble in which musicians share their knowledge and the experience of making music, with leading classical artists lending their support as guides and fellow performers.  Based on thousands of video auditions from around the world, the 2011 incarnation of the orchestra brings together 101 musicians from 33 countries; the players range in age from 14 to 49, and they comprise amateurs and professionals, and students and teachers – including some who have never previously traveled outside their home countries.

The New York Post interviewed members of the YouTube Symphony Orchestra 2011, including Marco Granados, at 49, the ensemble’s oldest member.

“I’ll try not to feel like a grandfather,” says the Venezuelan-born flutist.  The Upper West Sider is going down under in the hope of building an audience, something four solo CDs failed to do… .  These days, he commutes between Manhattan and Boston, where he teaches at the Longy School of Music.  He’d been urging his students to audition for YouTube when it dawned on him to try it himself, since it’s open to all.  “One day before the deadline, I said, ‘Oh, what the heck!” he says.  But there’s also something bigger…  “This idea of connecting people from different parts of the world…is emblematic of what we need in this world,” Granados says.  “Perhaps it can inspire a sense of peace.”

Visual art to accompany the music

For the March 20 finale, California-based firm Obscura Digital will visually enhance the artistry of the YouTube Symphony Orchestra with real-time, audio-reactive graphic projections that will simultaneously canvas the interior and exterior of the Sydney Opera House with parallel projection shows.  Obscura Digital’s technical artists will integrate live camera feeds from the concert hall with stylized treatments and live digital painting, beaming the projections from a half-mile away onto the facade of the building’s western sails.  This complex array of interactive graphic effects from the exterior will then be brought back into the Concert Hall of the Sydney Opera House.  YouTube Symphony Orchestra project manager Ed Sanders told the Times of London: “Video mapping and 3-D projection excite us, and curved white canvases don’t come any better than the Sydney Opera House.”  Tilson Thomas echoed this enthusiasm: “This is an enormous consciousness-raising exercise for classical music.  It’s astonishing for an orchestral concert to be given this level of technical spectacle on such a global platform.”

A press site with images and information is available here:

For a sneak peek at the Sydney Opera House projections, visit:


YouTube Symphony Orchestra 2011’s grand finale

Sunday, March 20

FINAL CONCERT, conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas

Sydney Opera House, Concert Hall

Percy Grainger (1882-1961): “Arrival at Platform Humlet” from In a Nutshell, suite

Hector Berlioz (1803-69): Roman Carnival overture

J.S. Bach (1685-1750): “Toccata” from Toccata & Fugue in F, BWV 540

   With Cameron Carpenter, organ

Alberto Ginastera (1916-83): Estancia: Danza del trigo and Danza final (Malambo)

   With Ilyich Rivas, conductor

W.A. Mozart (1756-91): “Caro bell’ idol mio” (K. 562)

   With Renée Fleming, soprano, and Sydney Children’s Choir

Benjamin Britten (1913-76): Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra


Richard Strauss (1864-1949): Fanfare for the Vienna Philharmonic

Mason Bates (b. 1977): Mothership

Felix Mendelssohn (1809-47): Violin Concerto in E minor: Finale

   With Stefan Jackiw, violin, and Ilyich Rivas, conductor

Nigel Westlake (b. 1958): Omphalo Centric Lecture

   With William Barton, didgeridoo, and Synergy Percussion

Trad., arr. Siamak Aghaei / Colin Jacobsen: Ascending Bird: suite for string orchestra

   With Colin Jacobsen and Richard Tognetti, violins

Igor Stravinsky (1883-1971): The Firebird (1910): Danse Infernale, Berceuse, and Finale

About YouTube

YouTube is the world’s most popular online video community, allowing millions of people to discover, watch, and share original videos.  YouTube provides a forum for people to connect, inform, and inspire others across the globe, and acts as a distribution platform for original content creators and advertisers large and small.  YouTube LLC is based in San Bruno, CA, and is a subsidiary of Google Inc.

Changing the face of the classical music audience

YouTube’s innovative, groundbreaking YouTube Symphony Orchestra project is changing the face of the classical music audience as it attracts new participants and audiences.  Many of the ten million views on the YouTube Symphony Orchestra channel are from young people between the ages of 13 and 24.  The channel provides a platform for musicians of all ages to flourish, share their creativity, and broadcast themselves.

YouTube is a unique platform for connecting artists around the world.  Classical music brings people together and transcends language, and the YouTube Symphony Orchestra furthers YouTube’s original mission of cultivating an online community.  The program marks the first time anyone has attempted to bring musicians around the world together through this type of technology.

“YouTube is bringing classical music to audiences far and wide in a positive, exciting, and cool way,” observes Sarah Willis, principal horn of the Berlin Philharmonic and a YouTube Symphony Orchestra mentor.  “Through modern technology, it’s reaching people who wouldn’t otherwise have a clue about the classical music world.  This is why I support it so much; we have to invest in audiences of the future.  YouTube is huge, and to be able to reach new audiences through such a popular medium is just fantastic and makes it global and fun.  It’s great to feel a part of it.”

YouTube Symphony Orchestra’s partners, such as the London Symphony Orchestra, have already uploaded educational content in the form of master classes, which can be viewed on the YouTube Symphony Orchestra channel.  With the YouTube Symphony Orchestra, YouTube is creating a platform for creative dialogue and instruction.  Other institutions participating in the site’s classical music program include the Amsterdam School of Music, Barcelona’s Liceu, the Moscow Conservatory, and the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra.

For musicians of all ages, nationalities, and instruments, the YouTube Symphony Orchestra and summit offer unparalleled reach and the unique chance to perform in front of YouTube’s massive global audience.  The participants showcase their talent, and their submissions are seen by many of the world’s leading musicians and judged by a panel of experts from the London Symphony Orchestra and the orchestras of Berlin, Hong Kong, Sydney, New York, and more.  As the Internet democratizes the process of discovering talent, the YouTube Symphony Orchestra provides musicians from unlikely places with a platform to showcase their art. 

Tan Dan, Academy Award-winning composer of the film score for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, said at the project’s inception: “YouTube is the biggest stage on Earth, and I want to see what the world’s undiscovered musical geniuses will create on it.”

 About the Sydney Opera House

In giving the world one of the 20th century’s greatest buildings, Jorn Utzon changed the creative and cultural landscape of Australia forever.  The Sydney Opera House is committed to continuing the legacy of Utzon’s creative genius by creating, producing, and presenting the most celebrated, imaginative, and engaging performing arts experiences from Australia and around the world – onsite, offsite, and online.  As the creative and cultural flagship of Australia, the Sydney Opera House is the place where imagination takes you.


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For further information, contact:

Abbi Tatton: [email protected]

Glenn Petry: 212-625-2038, [email protected]

© 21C Media Group, March 2011

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