When I received the invitation, I wasn’t quite sure what an experiential orchestra was. The description wasn’t clear, but I decided it was something I would need to experience for myself. I immediately put my name on the list for the event and bought tickets as soon as they became available. The event sold out almost immediately.
Young Patrons of Lincoln Center
The Young Patrons of Lincoln Center hosted the event for its members. YPLC is a group of young professionals who come together to show support for Lincoln Center, enjoy performances, and raise funds for projects at Lincoln Center. I’ve been a member of this group for a year now, and I have attended several of their events. This one however, was by far the most interesting musical adventure I have ever experienced. Visit the YPLC website to learn more about the group and how to join.
This post is a major spoiler. If you want to experience the Experiential Orchestra yourself, go here to view their upcoming performance schedule. If you are interested in learning more about the Young Patrons of Lincoln Center, go here. While many events like this one sell out quickly, some events are open to the public for an additional price (which might be great for a visitor).
Guests were greeted with wine and invited to step out onto the terrace to enjoy the sunset over the Hudson River. The musicians began appearing in the concert room as the sun went down. We quickly grabbed seats, not quite sure which would be optimal for an Experiential Orchestra.
The conductor, James Blachly, was a charismatic and passionate man, who also referred to himself as the host. This wasn’t going to be any old performance, that much was clear from the beginning.
He explained a little bit about how the evening would go and the cues to listen for when it was time to switch places. Then the orchestra began playing a piece of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony.
Beethoven’s 7th Symphony
After a short four minute snippet, the conductor stopped the music and led a discussion about what the piece made members of the audience think about. He encouraged us to listen in different ways throughout the night, the next being through the ears of someone else.
The next game was called guess who’s playing (the melody). Asked to close your eyes or look away from the musicians, the conductor asked us to identify which instruments were being used to play the melody. The game is slightly harder than one might guess.
As the evening progressed we switched from talking about the present to the future. The orchestra would play two bars of the symphony and the audience would be asked to sing the next note. Let’s just say we weren’t great at this game either.
Breaking Down the Barriers
As if the experience weren’t intimate enough already, we were asked to get up and stand next to a musician. The instruments were assigned to audience members as they entered the event. I was assigned Flute. The orchestra spread out around the room to make room for the audience members to huddle around them. As we watched and listened to our instrumentalist play the piece we were laser to think about why a given instrument was used or not used for certain sections of the music.
Once again we were instructed to move, this time to the instrument of our choice. I chose the bassoon partially because it was very close to me and partially because I find it interesting. It’s an instrument I don’t know much about but it is rather large and funny looking.
The Final Switch
For the final activity, the audience members were pulled in to encircle the conductor and the musician spread out along the perimeter of the room. I found my self located near the first strings and was amazed to watch them play from such a close perspective. You could really see every little movement they made to contribute to the sound that filled the room. Also separating the musical groups changed the way the sound spread through the room, really allowing you to single out the sounds from the musicians closest to you.
After one big encore full of dancing and laughter, the performance came to an end, but the party was just getting started. Finally, we were once again offered refreshments and invited to enjoy the terrace and mingle with the musicians.
If you have the chance, you should absolutely attend one of the Experiential Orchestra’s events.