YouTube orchestra seeks harmony out of diversity


June 18, 2010 Updated Apr 14, 2009 at 11:11 PM EDT

Musical -- and world -- harmony will be on display Wednesday when the YouTube Symphony Orchestra plays at New York's Carnegie Hall.

Ninety-six musicians from no less than 33 countries, ranging from Cuba to Australia and South Korea to Sweden, are to play works from composers including Bach, Mozart and John Cage in the famous music hall.

And they've only been given three days with San Francisco Symphony Orchestra music director Michael Tilson Thomas to get it right.

In a first for the music world, the orchestra was chosen from 3,000 applicants in 70 countries who auditioned via the YouTube video sharing website.

In honor of the occasion, the program will also include the specially composed Internet Symphony No. 1 "Eroica," by contemporary Chinese composer Tan Dun.

At a practice session on Tuesday, the gamble of trying to turn complete strangers into perfect music partners seemed to be paying off.

"I was astonished because I thought it would take a lot longer to get ready," said cellist Pierre Charles, 27, who studies at the Jussieu university in Paris. "The sound was right straight away."

Others said that regardless of how the performance goes, playing at Carnegie was an experience of a lifetime.

"I am an amateur player and for me, it is a very honorable and valuable experience to be here and broaden my life and my music," said oboe player Koichi Osada of Yokohama, Japan.

"This event will help people to become more familiar with classical music, even people who have not been interested in classical music. I hope all the people will listen to the video created after the concert."

Colombian trombonist John Wilson Gonzalez, 27, also described a "marvelous experience" being in New York. "It was unimaginable that I could get to play in Carnegie Hall, a mythical theater where only the great musicians play."

"There are musicians from all over the world -- professionals, amateurs, students. I don't know what sort of level it will be, but it's been really interesting."

The auditions were not the only offbeat aspect of this online-inspired orchestra: Tan Dun's special symphony will feature percussion instruments made from automobile brake discs along with more traditional instruments.

"It could be described as something between a summit conference, scout jamboree or musical get-together. It'll be the first time that people from so many different countries will have had a chance to discover one another online and then actually meet up and make music together," Thomas told NPR radio.

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