Full details announced for The Virtual Orchestra at Southbank Centre

Culminating in a live concert for new audiences conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen

  • Free 10-day series in public spaces of Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall – and featuring the first major Virtual Reality presentation from a UK orchestra – has new audiences at its heart
  • Series culminates with a special live concert (1 October 2016), conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen, conceived for audiences new to the concert hall
  • Schools, community groups and family workshops to bring thousands of people of all ages into contact with orchestral music

The Philharmonia Orchestra and Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor Esa-Pekka Salonen embark on a major technology-led audience development project at the Orchestra’s home, Southbank Centre in London, in September and October 2016.

Over two weeks (23 September to 2 October 2016), The Virtual Orchestra uses the latest technology to open up the inner workings of a symphony orchestra to people of all ages, whether or not they have ever stepped inside a concert hall.

Two digital installations, Universe of Sound (a multi-room, walk-through audio-visual installation based on Holst’s The Planets) and 360 Experience (a virtual reality experience, backstage and on the concert platform at Royal Festival Hall) will put audiences inside the Philharmonia Orchestra.

Each morning the Philharmonia Orchestra and Southbank Centre will deliver workshops for schools and community groups, with family workshops at the weekend. The installations will be open to the public for free each afternoon.

In a newly announced date, Salonen will conduct the Philharmonia Orchestra in The Virtual Orchestra: Live in Concert on Saturday 1 October, in an informal early evening concert at Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall. The performance, aimed at audiences of all ages and musical experience, will feature music from the installations (excerpts from The Planets and Sibelius Symphony No. 5) alongside Stravinsky’s The Firebird, in a thrilling climax to the series.

Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor Esa-Pekka Salonen said: “The Philharmonia's Digital Projects have taken place all over the world and I am delighted that we are now bringing Universe of Sound to our home at Southbank Centre, and to our London audience. The incredible power of virtual reality is that it is disappointing to leave it - to come back to reality. There is no doubt that for classical music virtual reality will be a very powerful, useful medium, and I am very excited to be taking part in this project.”

Philharmonia Orchestra Managing Director David Whelton said: “The Philharmonia has an outstanding record of using cutting-edge technology to introduce new audiences to the extraordinary world of the symphony orchestra. We are delighted to be doing so again and on such an ambitious scale with The Virtual Orchestra and, crucially, to be completing the project with a concert conducted by Esa-Pekka with music from the installations.”

Gillian Moore MBE, Director of Music, Southbank Centre said: "We are thrilled to be opening Southbank Centre's 2016/17 Classical Season with a brand new digital partnership with resident orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra. Southbank Centre’s belief is that everyone should have access to classical music. We constantly seek new ways to do this and are excited to be a part of the first major virtual reality initiative from a UK orchestra, bringing classical music to new audiences through cutting edge digital technology. Classical music's place in society is not confined to the concert hall and we can't wait for Philharmonia Orchestra to bring their award-winning digital projects to the public foyer spaces of the Royal Festival Hall for ten days of free and interactive world-class music."

The Virtual Orchestra series launches Southbank Centre’s 2016/17 Classical Season on 23 September 2016. The Virtual Orchestra is produced by the Philharmonia Orchestra and presented in partnership with Southbank Centre. 360 Experience was created in partnership with Southbank Centre and London-based VR specialists Inition.

Find out more at philharmonia.co.uk/the_virtual_orchestra