Philharmonia – find classical music in some surprising places this March


During the first two weekends of March, musicians from Bedford’s resident orchestra will be stepping out of the concert hall and into shopping centres, libraries, gyms and barbershops to bring classical music – and an incredible virtual reality experience – to the public.

The Philharmonia Orchestra has called the Corn Exchange its home for almost 30 years, but this spring its members are going ‘out in the wild’ to engage audiences who might not otherwise experience live classical music.

In early March, in collaboration with the Council and supported by the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, its musicians are leaving the confines of the Corn Exchange and will be hoping to surprise and delight audiences where they might be least expected.

Aimed at absolutely everyone, the activities are taking place in some surprising locations not usually home to classical musicians. Each event is completely free for anyone to take part in.

Shopping Liszt*

First up, on Friday, 1 March the Harpur Centre will host informal performances from five Philharmonia musicians, filling the shopping centre with the sound of soaring strings and some instantly recognisable classical melodies.

Shoppers will have the chance to meet the musicians, find out more about their instruments and even get involved in the music-making process.

On Saturday, 2 March will see three trios of Philharmonia players performing throughout the day in some very unexpected places throughout Bedford that couldn’t be further away from the typical concert hall surroundings.

Edward Bawden & Me is on at the Higgins from 17 February. Image: The Higgins Bedford
Edward Bawden & Me is on at the Higgins from 17 February. Image: The Higgins Bedford

Their first stop is at 10.30am at Damiano Hair on Bedford High Street, followed by Kempston Library and Bedford Library at 11am.

At 1pm, a trio will be performing at the Family Hub in Queen’s Park and also within the Edward Bawden & Me exhibition at the Higgins Bedford on Castle Lane. Entry is free.

At 2pm there will be a performance at Samsons Academy Gym on Elm’s Farm Industrial Estate, at 3.30pm at the Barley Mow pub on Bromham Road and the grand finale will be back on Bedford High Street at the Standard pub.

These short, free recitals will give Bedfordians a taste of live classical music in a relaxed setting, shifting the boundaries of where live music can be enjoyed.

You can follow the events on the Philharmonia’s social media on Instagram, Facebook and on X/formerly Twitter.

A deep dive into Beethoven

The beautiful surroundings of St Paul’s church are the location for the final event in the programme on Saturday, 9 March.

At the Philharmonia’s Interactive Insight, a group of musicians will be taking the audience on a deep dive into one of the most recognisable pieces of classical music – the opening of Beethoven’s Symphony No 5.

The session will explore the motifs and structure of the piece, and provide otherwise unknown insight into one of Beethoven’s most well-known works. 

The interactive event is open to anyone who is keen to gain a more in-depth understanding of one of the best-loved pieces of classical music, particularly GCSE, A-level and life-long music students.

This event is tied to the Philharmonia’s sold-out performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 at the Bedford Corn Exchange on Tuesday, 12 March.

Virtual reality experience

At all three events, the Philharmonia will also be bringing its extraordinary virtual reality (VR) installation to Bedford.

Just by donning the VR headset you can immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of a symphony orchestra.

You will experience excerpts of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6, Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 and the ever-popular The Lark Ascending by Vaughn Williams.

You’ll hear the music in ground-shaking detail and find yourself right at the heart of the Orchestra, sitting in the string section in front of conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen.

The Orchestra has developed this cutting-edge technology, enveloping users in sound as they experience a performance together.

So this month, get out and about and immerse yourself in the beauty of classical music and learn more about the talented musicians that make up our resident orchestra.

*The Bedford Clanger cannot guarantee that any of Liszt’s music will performed, his name was just used for pun purposes

A version of this article appears in the March issue of the Bedford Clanger.

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