Astronauts on a mission to bring orchestral music to the masses were on hand for the spectacular launch of a Virtual Orchestra experience at Festival Place in Basingstoke.
The shopping centre and leisure destination has partnered with the world-famous Philharmonia Orchestra and The Anvil to install The Virtual Orchestra on the upper level of Festival Place.
Visitors to the centre in July and August are invited to take the best seat in the house for an out-of-this-world performance of Holst’s The Planets – and they won’t have to pay a penny.
Running from July 6 until August 11, the Virtual Orchestra experience features a 10-room digital installation, taking visitors on a guided tour through the workings of a professional orchestra led by music specialists.
Along the way, there’s a chance for a close-up look at each orchestral section and even play along using various percussion instruments.
The installation culminates in a rolling performance of the seven-movement Planet Suite in a room dominated by huge video screens showing individual members of the orchestra in action. Visitors are invited to lie back and immerse themselves in the out-of-this world music from comfortable bean bags.
Afterwards, there’s a chance to get even closer to the action with a virtual reality headset, which transports the wearer to a concert hall stage and gives an extraordinary close-up glimpse into the sights and sounds of a symphony orchestra.
Continuing the space theme at Festival Place this summer, the Space Shifter is an inter-galactic version of Twister perfect for families, a Space Projection Room transports visitors to galaxies far, far away, and little astronauts can enrol in Space School, where they can leap through space with stories and games and even sample real NASA space food!
There will be two spectacular family-friendly live concerts performed by the Philharmonia in Porchester Square at 2pm and 3.30pm on August 4, giving as many people as possible the chance to experience the thrill of hearing live orchestral music. The concerts will be short, friendly and informal, and a specialist will guide the audience through the music, alongside critically acclaimed international conductor Holly Mathieson, who will be joined on stage by presenter Tim Steiner and BSL interpreter Angie Newman.
Neil Churchill, Centre Director at Festival Place, said: “We’re all about bringing fantastic experiences to people in ways they wouldn’t expect.
“It’s very rare that an entire orchestra comes to you! We knew the moment we saw this wonderful event in action that it we had to bring it to Festival Place.
“We want to welcome as many people as possible through school, community group, and family workshops with fun activities, giving them the opportunity to enjoy this wonderful experience.”
The event is being delivered by Festival Place, the Philharmonia Orchestra, and The Anvil, where the orchestra has been Orchestra in Partnership since September 2000.
Jonathan Mayes, the Philharmonia’s Director of Residencies and Regional Programme, said: “We are delighted to bring The Virtual Orchestra to Basingstoke having spent the last 18 months developing the project with Basingstoke Together, Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council, local arts organisations, and our principal partners Festival Place and Anvil Arts.
“For many people, this will be the first time that they experience orchestral music and we have already found that the digital platform for this exposure can be overwhelmingly powerful.”
Visiting the Virtual Orchestra installation at Festival Place is free, and a quiet hour will take place at selected times for those who may find the experience too loud or dark.
For further details about booking workshops and concert information and opening and performance times, visit philharmonia.co.uk/virtualorchestra