Philharmonia Orchestra brings the Virtual Orchestra to Bedford

Published on 25 May 2018

The world-famous Philharmonia Orchestra, resident orchestra at Bedford Corn Exchange, comes to Bedford this July and August with The Virtual Orchestra, a free experience for all the family that gives everyone the opportunity to experience a symphony orchestra up-close. A large tent on Riverside Square becomes home to a 10-room installation that showcases the internal workings of the Philharmonia as the orchestra performs Holst’s The Planets, and virtual reality headsets that transport you to a concert hall stage where you can see and hear the orchestra up close in 360-degree virtual reality.

More details:

  • Free six-week outdoor digital installation on Riverside Square, Bedford: 2 July – 10 August 2018
  • The opportunity to play along with the orchestra’s percussion section, use the Philharmonia’s
    virtual reality headsets and join a guided tour of the installation led by music specialists, all for free
  • Schools, community groups and family workshops to bring thousands people of all ages into contact with orchestral music
  • A busy fringe programme with activities ranging from karaoke to coffee mornings put on by local artists and musicians responding to The Virtual Orchestra
  • The Virtual Orchestra culminates with a live concert with a twist on 10 August 2018 at Bedford Corn Exchange

The Virtual Orchestra is a new flagship audience development project that aims to broaden and deepen engagement with orchestral music. The concept at the heart of this ambitious project is to engage people through digital experiences – and associated outreach programme and live performances – outside of the concert hall in public spaces and in the local community, all in partnership with local arts organisations and charities. This major project is generously supported by three foundations: Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, Paul Hamlyn Foundation and John Ellerman Foundation.

The Virtual Orchestra installation takes place at the newly-built Riverside Square in Bedford from Monday 2 July – Friday 10 August 2018. Around this central hub of activity, the orchestra delivers a series of schools, family and community workshops with fun hands-on activities for all ages. A fringe programme delivered by local groups including Fusion Youth Singing and Band and Bedford Creative Arts, schools and the Philharmonia Orchestra hosts activities around the town such as karaoke (3 August 2018), and free running (10 August 2018), with themes related to Holst’s The Planets.

Philharmonia Orchestra: Live! is a special live concert (10 August 2018, Bedford Corn Exchange) conceived for audiences who have experienced The Virtual Orchestra. The concert is short, friendly and informal and presented by a specialist to guide you through the music, plus you can relax on a beanbag while you watch or stand at the back and enjoy with a drink.

Jonathan Mayes, the Philharmonia’s Director of Residencies and Regional Programme, said: “We are delighted to bring our flagship audience development project to Bedford this summer.  Working with Bedford Borough Council and local arts organisations and businesses to bring The Virtual Orchestra to the Riverside Square development is a great extension of our residency at the Bedford Corn Exchange. It will give the opportunity for thousands of people to interact with a symphony orchestra in an entirely new way and in a new space for public events. We are also pleased to work with many Bedford-based organisations to bring exciting fringe events featuring local artists and performers. It’s going to be a summer to remember.”

Visiting The Virtual Orchestra installation on Riverside Square is free with no ticket or pre-booking required. For further details about booking workshops and concert tickets, and opening and performance times, visit

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