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BBC calls for amateurs to play Proms

Do Not UseDo Not Use 24/05/2016 By Mark Savage
David Baddiel is encouraging musicians of all levels to take part © BBC David Baddiel is encouraging musicians of all levels to take part

The BBC is calling for amateur musicians to perform Bizet's Toreador song, from Carmen, at the Proms.

BBC © BBC BBC

A "virtual orchestra" will be created to play the piece, conducted by Marin Alsop and supported by musicians from the Royal Academy of Music.

Everyone from beginners to lapsed musicians are being encouraged to apply by sending a video of their performance to the Get Playing website.

The best entries will be cut together and played at Proms in the Park events.

"It's a big event, because it's the first time the Last Night of the Proms will include anything by amateur musicians," said comedian David Baddiel, who is acting as an ambassador for the Virtual Orchestra.

Hitherto unknown as a pianist, Baddiel has already filmed his contribution. He will also appear with the BBC Concert Orchestra and introduce the finished film at Proms In The Park in Hyde Park on Saturday, 10 September.

The search is part of BBC Music's Get Playing initiative, which encourages people to try their hand at music.

Sheet music and tutorials for the Toreador Song are available on the BBC website, covering dozens of instruments - from the violin to the bagpipes - at all levels of ability.

The BBC says it will feature "as many audience videos as we can" in the final performance.

Q&A with David Baddiel

We know you as a comedian and a novelist. When did you become a pianist?

The piano actually predates all of those things. I learned piano as a kid - I started when I was about seven. My parents were very, very keen on classical music. My mum was a refugee from Nazi Germany and my dad was a working class bloke from Swansea. Classical music was a way of saying "we are part of British culture". So I went and watched a lot of classical music. To be honest with you, I didn't understand it. But I have continued to play.

When was the last time you played in public?

I'm playing in the dads' band at my son's primary school. We'll be at the summer fair if anyone wants to come and see that.

And now you're playing at the Proms. What on earth is happening?

Good question. I'm the bloke who the BBC have, for some reason, chosen to spearhead their Get Playing initiative. They wanted someone who's clearly not a proper musician.

And you'll be part of the Virtual Orchestra. What is that, and how can people get involved?

The Virtual Orchestra is anyone in the UK, above the age of 16, who can play a musical instrument at any level.

The way it works is: You can go to the BBC website and there will be a number of different versions of Bizet's Toreodor Song in sheet music, for different instruments at different levels. So you can click on "guitar - beginner" or "bagpipes - advanced", whatever you like. And you film yourself playing it, and the BBC will magically put that together with lots and lots of different people to create a virtual orchestra. And then that will be played at Proms In The Park.

Who can take part?

They're not supposed to be professional musicians - they're supposed to be the vast amount of people in Britain who just play a musical instrument at any level.

If you want to have some bins and drum along to it, I can't see anything wrong with that. If you don't happen to have a Steinway [piano] but you have a great sense of rhythm, why not do that? In a way, the more bizarre, the better.

The one thing I think you can't do is sing. There's no point in making up lyrics to Bizet's Toreodor Song. That won't get you into Hyde Park.

Why is it important to encourage more people to play?

The primary importance of it, is that it should be fun. I was slightly forced to play classical music, because my parents thought that was important. By the time I was 16, I was in a punk band and I hated classical music - but I think that's because I wasn't allowed to find what my joy in that music was. And one way of doing that is just to play it, without it being something you're doing in a bow tie in a formal environment.

How to take part in the virtual orchestra

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