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Portsmouth symphonia
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Portsmouth symphonia

The Portsmouth Symphonia was a musical group founded by English composer Gavin Bryers, while teaching at Portsmouth School of Art in the early 1970s.

Unlike the usual orchestra, which goes to some lengths to pick competent musicians, Bryers was more interested in experimenting with the nature of music; in this case, what would an orchestra sound like if anyone could join, complete nonmusicians as well as musicians of any level of talent and experience. The only rules were that everyone had to come for rehearsals, and people should try their best to get it right and not try to sound silly.

The repertoire of the Symphonia was the standard classical repertoire, so that most people had an idea of what the piece, or at least famous parts of it, should sound like; even if they could not play their chosen instrument accurately, they would at least have an idea that they should be going higher at one part then lower at another, and so on, so that the ensemble would produce 'clouds of sound' giving an average impression of the piece. Many modern composers and musicians found this to be interesting and even profound; the fact that it came out rather funny was a bonus. Brian Eno was interested enough to join the orchestra, playing clarinet.

The group tried other experiments as well; such as the orchestra playing the introduction to a Schumann concerto, while a pianist played the opening bars of the Grieg piano concerto.

Their album, "Portsmouth Symphonia Plays the Popular Classics" was released in 1973. At the height of their popularity, they played a concert at the Royal Albert Hall with conductor John Farley, which sold thousands of tickets.

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