If you’re going to fail, mind as well fail proudly. But don’t tell that to the Portsmouth Sinfonia – whose thirty year recordings have become the internet darlings of orchestra fails.
Though they ceased performing in 1979, the Portsmouth Sinfonia’s lore lives on in the digital meme-friendly age. The student-founded orchestra at the Portsmouth School of Art in England in 1970 garnered more worldwide recognition than most iconic orchestras could only dream of.
Applicants to the Portsmouth Sinfonia need not be a skilled musician, as its unusual entrance requirement were that players had to either be non-musicians, or if already one musician, play an instrument that was entirely new to them. And boy, do the results sound it.
Needless to say, the Portsmouth Sinfonia was not exactly good. In fact they are outrageously horrible.
While initially considered a parody, joke orchestra, the Portsmouth Sinfonia later gained reasonably-sized fame, with headlining concerts, record albums to this day that sell overseas, a hit UK pop single, and even a film to their credentials.
Yet while the Portsmouth Sinfonia may be the running gag of classical music, they hold the last laugh. Their recording of Also sprach Zarathustra became so popular, it is consistently licensed for movie “blunder” scenes and even became the entrance music to hipster duo act Pete Bjorn and John’s tour in 2011.
And yet in all their audio atrocity, there is a sense of happiness to be found in the music of Portsmouth Sinfonia. Yes the Portsmouth Sinfonia were pretty bad. But they were damn good at being bad. They’ve put a smile to countless faces. For any musician, that’s what counts the most.
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