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YouTube Symphony Orchestra breaks YouTube records

Who said classical music is dying? Not only was the grand finale concert by the YouTube Symphony Orchestra 2011 on March 20 at the Sydney Opera House the most watched classical concert in history: it was also the most viewed live streaming event ever seen on YouTube. With more than 30 million views, it drew a virtual audience three times bigger than U2’s YouTube concert. The culmination of a week of rehearsals, concerts and master-classes in Sydney, the YouTube Symphony’s finale also proved to be the most watched live mobile stream on record, with nearly 3 million views on mobile devices. Each viewer of the live webcast watched the Sydney concert for an average of 25 minutes. It was a massive internet event, with the total stream (ie. combining the live and 24-hour looped repeat streams) transferring 422TB of data – the equivalent of sending 145 million mp3 files around the world. Twitter activity was also off the charts: #ytso, the event’s hashtag, reached number one as a global trending topic. 

NPR Music said about the event: “It was classical music outreach on a global scale, with an exuberant mix of musicians, videos, live projections, smart programming, social media and video technology firing on all cylinders.” 

Seen by the world, the YouTube Symphony Orchestra 2011 was also drawn from the world, with members from more than 33 countries. Led by artistic director Michael Tilson Thomas, the orchestra performed a dazzling finale of music by composers from Australia, Asia, Europe and the Americas, and it was joined by top-rank soloists, including  violinists Richard Tognetti, Colin Jacobsen and Stefan Jackiw, organist Cameron Carpenter, percussion group Synergy, conductor Ilyich Rivas, and – by video link – soprano Renée Fleming. The artistry of the YouTube Symphony was visually amplified by real-time, audio-reactive graphic projections. Obscura Digital’s technical artists integrated live camera feeds from the concert hall with stylized treatments and live digital painting, beaming the projections from a half-mile away onto the façade of the Sydney Opera House’s iconic western sails.

The full force of YouTube and Google’s creative and promotional heft was rolled out internationally for the YouTube Symphony Orchestra 2011, helping to generate buzz throughout the week of events in Sydney leading up to the finale and live stream. A YouTube Symphony mobile app was produced, which garnered 175,000 downloads. The Sydney Morning Herald captured the groundbreaking excitement of the occasion: “What is unique is how the combined whizzbangery of YouTube and Google have put a “what if?” approach to performing in reach of classical music.  … Should all classical music be like this? Maybe not all. But it is impossible not to thrill to the sense of new possibilities inspired by this week-long exploration of music.” 

Reviewing the finale of the week-long YouTube Symphony Orchestra summit for The Times of London, Richard Morrison wrote: 

“three cheers for the way that Tilson Thomas and his Google collaborators managed to make this concert thrilling and accessible without dumbing down the music. I loved the way that Kseniya Simonova’s sand paintings, gradually disclosing then dissolving their subjects, were harnessed to the East-meets-West fusion of the Colin Jacobsen/Siamak Aghaei string suite, Ascending Bird. And the pulsating techno thrash of Mason Bates’s Mothership, with four improvising soloists (electric guitar, Chinese zither, double bass and jazz violin) placed around the orchestra, was as exciting visually as musically… Best of all, this orchestra of young professionals and dedicated amateurs played Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra and extracts from Stravinsky’s Firebird with real verve and technical assurance under Tilson Thomas.”.

Photos from the week of events in Sydney can be seen here:

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, Calif., and is a subsidiary of Google Inc.

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© 21C Media Group, March 2011


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