[Originally published on Jun 21, 2012 on Limelight Magazine]
A flash mob is a group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual and sometimes seemingly pointless act for a brief time, then disperse, often for the purposes of entertainment and/or satire. Flash mobs are a recent social phenomenon. Some might say they go hand in hand with the fairly fatuous "planking" craze. Both have arisen from the ability to share something easily via technology - an act so seemingly random that it becomes entertainment.
From mass public pillow fights to "silent discos" (participants on the London Underground synced their portable music devices and silently danced for the unexpected viewing pleasure of bemused commuters), flash mobs have taken a variety of forms, but I would argue that they have an ability to serve a greater purpose. In particular I've taken an interest in the way classical music has been used in this context. It fits the bill perfectly; something that is widely perceived to belong in a concert hall, usually performed with a sense of formality to audiences who pay good money. Many people view classical music as a luxury. Taking it away from the revered theatres to the general public, free of charge and in a fun, surprising way is surely a good thing that's bound to attract some attention.
For us musos, there's the thrill of being "in on it". But interestingly, it's not just amateur musicians getting into this social movement, and it goes far beyond busking. Professional ensembles around the world have seen it not only as a bit of fun, but a way of reaching the masses in a modern, relevant way.
The most recent I've seen took place on May 2, 2011 at Copenhagen Central Station, where the Copenhagen Philharmonic (Sjællands Symfoniorkester) performed Ravel's Boléro to an unsuspecting (and largely delighted) audience.
Check out a smaller group from the same orchestra entertaining commuters on the train:
So what's the most viewed flash mob on YouTube? An seemingly impromptu performance of the Hallelujah Chorus at Christmas in a suburban food court with over 33,000,000 views! This one is bound to bring a smile to your face.
If you want to take a look at more flash mobs (not just of the classical variety), I've made a playlist on YouTube that you can access via my channel.
So, classical music lovers, keep an ear to the ground; you never know if a Beethoven symphony might pop up as you turn a corner.