BE PHIL Orchestra

100 amateur musicians played under Simon Rattle

(Photo: Monika Rittershaus)

“It sends shivers down my spine! To be allowed to play in these hallowed halls is a unique experience that I will never forget,” sayed Elisa Horrer enthusiastically. The South Tyrolean has been playing the bassoon for 14 years and was one of around 100 amateur musicians who have qualified for the BE PHIL Orchestra. On 21 May 2018, she and her musical colleagues performed Johannes Brahms’ First Symphony under the direction of Sir Simon Rattle as part of the Open Day.

Amateur musicians from all over the world

Earlier this year, the Berliner Philharmoniker’s education programme called for applications from all over the world for this unusual project. 1,900 amateur musicians responded and applied for the BE PHIL Orchestra. 12 jurors, all members of the Berliner Philharmoniker, selected 101 participants from 1,000 applications. The orchestra was made up of music-loving amateurs from 30 countries, including Australia, Japan, Korea, Trinidad and Tobago, the United States, Brazil, India and Israel. At around 16,000 km, Philipp Eversheim from Australia had probably the longest journey. Born in Cologne, he emigrated overseas with his family when he was seven. The biomedicine student has been playing the flute for 12 years and brought with him orchestral experience from his student orchestra. The musicians of the BE PHIL Orchestra were aged between 10 and 75. The vast majority was made up of pupils and students, followed by participants from the service sector and medical and legal professions, while music students represented 8% of the BE PHIL Orchestra.

A unique experience

“It’s wonderful to meet you all gathered here after so many month of work,” said Stanley Dodds welcoming the participants. The Philharmoniker violinist and conductor was one of the jurors and led together with Michael Hasel the rehearsals. After just the first rehearsal, there was a buzz of excitement: “To see and hear how others play is an uplifting experience,” said 16-year-old Lia Rafaela de Marcos e Melo from Portugal, a member of the viola section. “For me, it’s a dream come true.” Brahms’ First Symphony posed particular challenges for each of the musicians, whether strings, woodwind or brass: for the horn player Cody Lidge from South Carolina, it was important to make the entries as soft as possible; the American trombonist Timothy Grabow found it difficult to find a common intonation. The strings agreed that the final movement is the most demanding. After just the first rehearsal, the Cologne clarinetist Clarissa Schmitt also understood what she had to concentrate on: to play a good piano and to pay more attention to the dynamics. And, as she confessed, “It’s not as easy as it looks on the page”. The thunderous applause at the end of the performance showed that the BE PHIL did its job magnificently and also won the hearts of the audience.

Rehearsal in the Meistersaal Potsdamer Platz with Stanley Dodds
(Photo: Martin Walz)

First rehearsal with Simon Rattle in the Philharmonie
(Photo: Monika Rittershaus)