music / Quirky

Classical in concrete?

20 June 2024

This week we heard about an exciting musical ensemble that will be coming our way next month. Called The Multi-Story Orchestra, the south-east-London-based collective performs in car parks and other unconventional settings, and will be playing the Fairfield Halls’ gig space The Recreational on 12 July after premiering Verified 2024 at Peckham’s Bold Tendencies in early July. 

The Multi-Story Orchestra was founded back in 2011 by composer Kate Whitley and conductor Christopher Stark, because they wanted to find new ways for orchestras to perform that escaped the formal settings of concert halls. Their performances are collaborations between choirs and instrumentalists that celebrate the local community, and often involve working with schools. They believe orchestral music should be accessible to everyone. Hear hear.

They gained mass attention in 2016 when they broadcast the first ever Proms performance from a car park, which became a milestone in classical music inclusivity.

One of their groundbreaking pieces was called ‘The Endz’ which highlighted gang culture, when some of their young people started making music in response to the death of a fellow pupil. This was a powerful turning point for the orchestra, as they started to develop music led by the young people so they could tell their own stories.


As for this year’s reimagining of their show Verified, about the young artists’ relationships with social media, Peckham playwright Montel Douglas has written a new script, plus there are a fresh set of songs to accompany it. 

Douglas talks more about the show: ‘Malcolm, a young aspiring musician working at McDonald’s, dreams of fame but struggles with self-doubt and a lack of original material. Desperation leads him to his talented friend Kemi, propelling him to unexpected success. As his star rises, Malcolm faces the consequences of his actions, ultimately learning the value of integrity and collaboration. All while his burning desire for verification and public recognition consumes his entire being..’

We’re all for organisations who reinvigorate art forms that are perhaps typically seen as traditional, posh or ‘establishment’. What better way to create performances for new generations that tell stories about today’s societal issues in places that feel more inclusive. Power to extraordinary orchestras like Multi-Story. 

It may not be in a car park, but we look forward to seeing their performance in our own classical concrete arts space that is the Fairfield Halls.

Find out more about The Multi-Story Orchestra on their website and follow them on Instagram, X (Twitter), Youtube and Facebook.  And get your tickets to Verified, which takes place at The Recreational, Fairfield Halls, on Friday 12 July, here.

Images courtesy of The Multi-Story Orchestra

Posted by Julia

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