An orchestra for those in need

Jörg HammannThu 22nd November 2012

The Orchestra Musica Romantica is a new ensemble which will further the cause of classical music while promoting charity work

The Orchestra Musica Romantica make their world debut at Cadogan Hall on December 1. As a project orchestra, they are raising money for Action Medical Research and will continue to sponsor causes with all their future performances. Here, Jörg Hammann, the artistic director, founder and conductor of the new ensemble, discusses the importance of new orchestras, the importance of classical music and why he has created an orchestra which supports those in need.

Once, whilst travelling on the Underground, I was asked my profession and received a shocking response to my answer: ‘Well, classical music isn't really “hip” anymore, is it?’ I swore not to take this statement light-heartedly, as I believe it should be every musician's agenda to promote classical music and the arts. We are facing a slow deterioration of public acceptance towards classical orchestral music, which arguably began alongside the establishment of home computers, the expansion of electronic entertainment such as television, game consoles and the Internet. It is not just in these recent years of economic recession and this phenomena isn't just local; it is global. Orchestras have continued to close, merge and receive cuts to their funding since the '90s, but it is only now (alongside the concern for the wider global economic turmoil) that the press surrounding the decline of interest and funding to the classical music industry has begun to increase. Furthermore, the music we create is not just entertainment; it is a cultural asset: something worthwhile that we must preserve and keep alive. Music is part of our identity and heritage; it enhances our life, is an inspiration to us and is a reminder of our humanity. Personally, I think it should be protected by UNESCO, just as architecture is.

Despite declining interest in classical music, music in general is increasingly accessible for the public, especially pop music, which has become progressively ubiquitous; so much so that the beauty of old masterpieces can often be overlooked and unappreciated. A while ago, I watched a BBC documentary that I found extremely fascinating and touching: A former pilot for an African airline in Congo founded an amateur orchestra, with music and instruments collected and sent over by European charities, music schools and musicians. After a few years of hard work they performed Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. The music was so important to the musicians, that some walked for over two hours through the wilderness to attend their rehearsals. The orchestra provided them with an opportunity to forget the hardship of their lives, and supplied them with a spiritual, unforgettable and emotional experience that they were an important part of. The documentary proved how powerful classical music still is, and that it can also be appreciated by those beyond our Western culture.

With this in mind, I founded the Orchestra Musica Romantica, to contribute more to society through classical music. As a player in the London Symphony Orchestra, I am fortunate enough to know many excellent musicians who are willing to play for the orchestra in order to promote a good cause, with the first concert being in aid of the Action Medical Research charity. The volunteers at the charity have also been a great help in the organisation of the concert through their time and support. In order to continue raising money with the orchestra through charity concerts, we encourage people to sponsor and help with our funding. I have high hopes that there are enough music lovers out there who have the passion and concern to support both us and our charitable agenda, helping us to reach out to those who need our help. Unlike other orchestras, the OMR is a mixed orchestra of professionals and students from London’s best music colleges. On one hand, the expertise of the professionals can be passed on to the next generation of musicians playing in the same environment, and on the other hand the ‘freshness’ of students can contribute to new results: both sides can mutually inspire each other.

I would like to establish the Orchestra Musica Romantica as a project orchestra, focusing on music that has direct relevance to the human soul, as I am aware that many great orchestras have already established their place in London, specialising in certain repertoire. The composition of abstract contemporary music very often detaches itself from emotion, human logic and human musical psychology; and, although it can lead to very interesting results, it is not the style of music which would work best for the orchestra. With this in mind I gave the orchestra its name, ‘Orchestra Musica Romantica’. This does not necessarily mean the orchestra will only perform works of the Romantic period. I also intend to have music explained in workshop-style concerts, which will be both educational and entertaining, and will present the composer and his music as the ‘celebrity’ of our concerts. My hope for the future of the Orchestra Musica Romantica is that we will contribute to a better understanding of music globally, what we do as musicians and, of course, why we do it.

Jörg Hammann

London Symphony Orchestra violinist Jörg Hammann is artistic director, founder and conductor of the Orchestra Musica Romantica, which makes its world debut at Cadogan Hall on December 1, 2012, raising money for Action Medical Research.

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