TACO: Terrible Adult Chamber Orchestra

NPR’s classical music blog, Deceptive Cadence, tipped me off to the encouraging news that the terrible orchestra movement is alive and well in California. A group in Los Altos gets together for the hell of it, to participate directly in music making in a way that is open to all, regardless of skill level and experience.

Broader goal? Simple, according to conductor Cathy Humphers Smith,

“The goal is to play music together. That’s it. People are wanting something that’s nurturing of the soul.

Part of the appeal is the laughter, of course. Comic writer Alexander McCall Smith relates his own experience on the sousaphone and contrabasson in Scotland’s Really Terrible Orchestra, [audiences] “wait for something to go wrong, and we never disappoint them.”

But I bet the experience for the players isn’t disappointing, but rather a real kick. As an avid amateur musician myself (passable pianist, bargain basement tenor, and non-observant violinist), I’ve always looked enviously at amateur sports. Lots of participation, and no needless hang ups about excellence.

Excellence is a value of classical music, of course (see my earlier post on Victoria De Los Angeles) but it’s not the only one, becoming a kind of insurmountable barrier for musician or listener. Participation is an even more important value, and sometimes it’s best not to outsource our engagement with music but instead, ice the “is it any good? question, and get out and do it. Faces and the sounds from the Mercury News piece on TACO show that’s a reward in itself.

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