Videos, webisodes and classical music flash mobs

A while ago, I posted a link to Baltimore Symphony Orchestra/Washington National Opera’s flash mob video on the Dutch Perspective Facebook page. Little did I know that opened somewhat of a floodgate of flash mob videos, and other videos, appearing on my radar screen.

Maryann Devine, over at smarts & Culture, blogged about the BSO/WNO flash mob video and called it awkward. Once I got over my initial excitement of a classical music organization setting up a flash mob, I simply had to agree. The BSO/WNO video just seems over-produced and somewhat out of place. Washington Post critic Anne Midgette writes: “It’s clear that no one involved is quite sure what to make of it: the singers, the other employees, the few shoppers […] Is it cute? Funny? Weird? Well-done? Cheesy?”

A commenter below Anne’s article perhaps captures my thoughts best: “It was cute, but too elaborate and staged to be a true ‘flash mob’ event.” Another commenter points to an opera flash mob video from Spain (which has more than 3.5 million views!); and Maryann compares the BSO/WNO video with an Opera Company of Philadelphia video that seems truer to social media form.

Tenor and Britain’s Got Talent winner Paul Potts put on a flash mob of one in Germany. Looks like he got a better response than the newspaper-induced Joshua Bell experiment, when the violinist played at a subway station a few years back…

London Symphony Orchestra’s Jo Johnson pointed out on my Facebook page that this idea of combining classical music and flash mobs was in fact not so new at all. In 2004, the BBC produced Flashmob: The Opera, which was televised throughout Britain. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a video, but here is one person’s take on the event.

Jo also mentioned she had visited Flatpack, an opera composed by Tom Lane and performed during the official opening hours of IKEA Wembley in June 2009.

I asked her if she knew of any instrumental flash mobs. She didn’t, but a couple of days later I came across a German site. In April, some ensembles of the Württembergische Philharmonie Reutlingen performed in a shopping mall. On Twitter, Chris Richardson, of eighth blackbird fame, told me he asked the ensemble members about my suggestion of a Chicago ensemble performing at Millennium Park’s Cloud Gate. Let’s hope we’ll see that this summer!

Then today, via the always amusing Opera Chic, I came across three also amusing videos of New York Philharmonic music director Alan Gilbert. Not quite flash mobs, but very well, albeit geekily, done. As much as I like the new Chicago Symphony Orchestra webisodes with Riccardo Muti, I think these kinds of fun, raw videos like the Alan Gilbert videos are much more suitable for today’s social media environment (not to mention easier on the budget).

When it rains videos, it pours videos, I suppose. Have fun watching them all. And let me know about any other classical music flash mobs, what videos spoke most to you, or what you would do if you could set up a flash mob or create a fun video.