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<b>Birmingham orchestra seeks Rahman's guidance</b> Birmingham orchestra seeks Rahman's guidance

Topic started by h (@ on Wed Feb 25 04:32:27 EST 2004.
All times in EST +10:30 for IST.

Birmingham orchestra seeks Rahman's guidance

London, Feb 24 (IANS) The West Midlands town of Birmingham may be best known for its recordings of Mahler and Stravinsky, but the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra has now enlisted the help A.R. Rahman to broaden its repertoire.

In a fortnight's time, Rahman will take the baton for two successive nights of themes from the Indian film industry, including many of his own works.

The CBSO, which achieved international status during the tenure of conductor Sir Simon Rattle, is seeking to find new audiences closer to home, by persuading Indian and Pakistani audiences into its Symphony Hall headquarters.

Tickets for the 2,200-seat auditorium are already selling fast among the city's south Asian population and, according to the orchestra's chief executive, Stephen Maddock, the Bollywood nights promise to pull in the largest ever non-white audience for a mainstream British orchestra.

Rahman is best known to western music fans as the composer of "Bombay Dreams", the West End musical.

But to his South Asian followers he is a cult figure who, at the age of 38, has already sold nearly 200 million albums and worked on more than 50 films, including "Lagaan".

He recently agreed to score the stage musical version of "Lord of the Rings", which is due to open next year.

Maddock told the media that the orchestra was setting out to attract non-traditional audiences.

Birmingham expected to have a non-white majority by 2010, making it one of the most multicultural cities in Britain. Yet the CBSO's core following was still largely from middle-class areas of the city.

"We have a responsibility to provide a range of musical activities," he said.

"Our audiences are much less extensively white than you might expect, but it is true to say that right across the world classical music tends to appeal to a predominantly white audience."

The Bollywood initiative forms part of a year long-series of Classic Asia concerts at Symphony Hall.

Rahman took his first rehearsal with the orchestra last week, and said he was nervous at the prospect of his first orchestral engagement on such a scale.

Piali Ray, the Indian dancer and choreographer whose Sampad dance company will perform with CBSO later in the year, praised Birmingham for creating an environment in which community arts could flourish.

Sampad broke new ground with its recent collaboration with the city's Royal Ballet. Birmingham also hosts Samyo, effectively the national youth orchestra for South Asian music.

"There are large sections of the Asian community who are very interested in the arts, but sometimes haven't felt welcomed. Or may be they don't even know there are things that will interest them," she said. "This is really heartening."

The fact that most tickets had already gone showed lessons had been learned on both sides.


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