13 mind-blowing times classical music cropped up in unexpected places
20 September 2021, 17:21
From a piano on an Arctic glacier, to a Fauré-playing washing machine, we celebrate some of the weirdest situations in which classical music has unexpectedly graced our ears.
Classical music seems most comfortable in concert halls, at school recitals and over the airwaves of specialist radio stations. Right?
Nay, say these mind-blowing examples of music-making in unexpected places.
Classical music, actually, can take us by surprise and be enjoyed in any space imaginable, as these intrepid, innovative and inspiring performers have demonstrated.
From the bold to the downright bizarre, here are some of the most spectacular times we’ve heard wonderful classical music in totally unexpected places.
A piano recital in the Arctic
This pianist headed to the northernmost point on Earth, and pitched up for a piano concert of polar proportions.
In 2016, pianist and composer Ludovico Einaudi performed an epic premiere of his piano piece Elegy for the Arctic on a specially built ‘iceberg’ within 100 metres of a crumbling glacier, to help raise awareness about the melting ice in the region.
In the beeps and tones of your kitchen appliances
From the far-flung, to the most frequented and comforting room in your house: the kitchen. These musicians have taken delight in showing us how many times classical masterpieces crop up in the beeps and bleeps of household appliances.
This guy’s washing machine plays a whole load of Schubert, and these geniuses took matters into their own hands when they used the machine to perform some of their favourite music ever written: John Williams’ ‘Hedwig’s Theme’ from the Harry Potter soundtracks.
Sublime cello in a national park
One performance saw the cellist take bow to string at Otter Point, overlooking the water with gulls swooping and hollering, while another performance was witnessed by visitors to the lawn of Jordan Pond House at the well-frequented beauty spot.
On popular TV soaps
In what’s surely one of the weirdest Neighbours storylines there’s been, the Dutch maestro steps out of a limo at the bequest of Paul Robinson, who is looking to surprise and re-woo Rebecca.
Rieu then delights characters and viewers alike by serenading them with his violin, and soon a few Ramsay Street regulars have come out of their houses to couple-up and join in with it all, waltzing to the Blue Danube with full orchestral backing that we’re guessing is being played, ahem, off-screen somewhere.
In 2018, Sydney Festival was the host of the world’s first underwater band.
Danish avant-garde ensemble Between Music had developed instruments and techniques that can be performed by players who are totally submerged, working closely with scientists and deep sea divers in the process.
It’s not the first time instruments have been seen plunged into water. This cellist took his instrument underwater for a mesmerising photoshoot. And these scuba divers scaled the depths to treat us to The Little Mermaid music played under the actual sea.
At the top of the Europe’s tallest building
The musicians performed Mozart’s Symphony No. 41, ‘Jupiter’ at the top of the iconic building to celebrate LMP’s 70th anniversary.
In an epic and expertly-executed flashmob
Flashmobs have been around long enough now for us to get what they’re all about. One or two wandering people break out unexpectedly into a seemingly spontaneous performance in a public place, and more and more people join in until the whole scene is transformed into a well-planned frenzy of music, song and/or dance.
But when it’s classical music we can’t help still getting excited. Orchestral flashmobs have thrilled thousands around the world, but this one that took place in the Spanish city of Sabadell still gets us. It’s Beethoven, it’s joyous, and it’s brilliant.
At the world’s muddiest music festival
Taking the iconic Pyramid Stage by storm, the opera company dazzled festival-goers with music from Wagner’s Die Walküre, which includes the theme made famous as the Apocalypse Now music, and in 2011 attracted the “largest ever live audience for opera in Britain,” according to The Independent.
Accompanying an unneighbourly car alarm
Writer and critic Andrea Long Chu, who is also an amateur pianist, brought a moment of beauty to quarantined neighbours when she transformed somebody’s infuriating and neglected car alarm into a piece of improvised music.
In a quartet of helicopters
As transport goes, helicopters carry a certain glamour.
And in 1995 the Arditti Quartet added a sprinkle of music to their helicopter rides – we say ‘rides’, because all four musicians were in a vehicle each – when they performed Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Helicopter String Quartet, a piece composed specially for skyward musicians.
In a carpark
10 years ago, the Multi-Story Orchestra was formed to take spectacular concerts to unexpected venues. The orchestra transformed a Peckham multi-storey carpark into a classical concert venue, and has since toured elsewhere doing the same.
Concert series like Bold Tendencies, and Classic FM’s Opera Company in the UK Opera North, have similarly brought classical music out of the concert hall and into the carpark.
Down the pub
Let’s get classical music out of formal settings and into beer-slopped pub bars.
That’s what the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment said when it established the concert series Night Shift in 2014, bringing chamber and classical music into boozy, relaxed pub sessions. Cheers to that.
Crammed onto the iconic London Eye
While the musicians experienced spectacular 360 views of the UK capital, so did viewers of the video – which captured the whole thing in 360° filming technology to allow us to feel like we were really there.