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Is It Really Music If It’s Really Terrible?

When it comes to classical music, I admit that I’m really ignorant. All of it sounds the same to me. And that’s despite the fact that, because of my wife the musician, I’ve been hanging around the fringes of that world for a long time.

Accurate or not, my impression has always been that classical music is rather elitist, an exclusive club with a very high barrier for entry, both for listeners and especially for anyone who wanted to perform.

Which is why I have a great deal of admiration for one group of performers about which a critic sniped “How these people presume to play in public is quite beyond me.”.

Some years ago, a group of frustrated people in Scotland decided that the pleasure of playing in an orchestra should not be limited to those who are good enough to do so, but should be available to the rankest of amateurs. So we founded the Really Terrible Orchestra, an inclusive orchestra for those who really want to play, but who cannot do so very well. Or cannot do so at all, in some cases.

I love the fact that “on more than one occasion members of the orchestra have actually been discovered to be playing different pieces of music, by different composers, at the same time”.

I wonder if it made the performance better or worse.

Maybe orchestras in this country wouldn’t have a shrinking audience if there were more opportunities for the “rankest of amateurs” among us to give it a try on the stage.

classical, music, terrible, orchestra


  1. nkiniss

    Yes! you are right about certain genres of classical music – the heavy “really classical” types. But “light classical” music is usually quite tuneful and should be easily appreciated by anyone who likes a good tune.

  2. J.D. Williams

    I don’t think it even matters to most people if it’s really good. Here is an article about an experiment in classical music that the Washington Post set up. They had one of the best musicians in the world play in the subway to see how people would react.

  3. Trina

    My church orchestra is like this. We let anybody in. And with a varying number of members from 5 to 60 years old, playing whatever instruments we have available, we do pretty darn well.

  4. MaryJo Wagner

    I beg to differ. Plenty of great singable tunes in Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Verdi, et al. Tunes that have been used in movies, cartoons and kids’ CDs.
    A tune from an opera was even recently used in a Super Bowl commercial! If classical music was so dreadful, boring, and elitist, it wouldn’t be all around us. Give those of us who love classical music a break.

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