The Orchestra of Impossible Beauty

  • quoted from website

“The British ParaOrchestra, based in London, is an orchestra consisting entirely of musicians with disabilities—the first ever orchestra of its kind in the United Kingdom. The ParaOrchestra was formed by conductor Charles Hazlewood in 2011 as a project to create a platform for the top disabled musicians, with the hope that its success would lead to better integration of the disabled into music and performing arts. The orchestra performed its first live show at Glastonbury Abbey in July 2012 , and received international attention when it played alongside Coldplay during the closing ceremony of the 2012 Summer Paralympics in London in September 2012.

“Charles Hazlewood was inspired by his youngest daughter Eliza to form the ParaOrchestra; Eliza suffers from cerebral palsy, but Hazlewood believed that she was still an “outstanding” singer. Being the father of a child with a disability, he realized that throughout his career as an orchestral conductor, he had seen few disabled performers as members of orchestras. Hazlewood felt that since music is ‘universal’, an orchestra should represent all members of a community—comparing this ordeal to the time when only men performed in orchestras. He felt that an orchestra consisting only of disabled performers could spread awareness of this issue and help achieve greater integration for the disabled in music and the performing arts.

“Hazlewood officially announced the formation of the British ParaOrchestra in July 2011 at a TED conference in Edinburgh. He did not intend the ParaOrchestra to be a therapeutic or ‘warm and fuzzy’ project, but rather a platform to showcase disabled musicians with virtuosic qualities. When holding auditions, he aimed to find musicians who were ‘at the top of their game, technically, and with a spirit behind the virtuosity.’ The orchestra’s first 17 members come from a variety of backgrounds and use a variety of instruments, including conventional instruments and electronic devices such as tablet computers and other assistive technology developed by Rolf Gehlhaar, Professor in Experimental Music at Coventry University and the technical director of the orchestra. After failing to partner with the BBC, Hazlewood successfully commissioned British broadcaster Channel 4 to produce a documentary following the formation of the ParaOrchestra and its first performance, which aired on 9 September 2012. He felt airing its documentary on Channel 4 was a “no-brainer”, as it was also the official broadcaster of the 2012 Summer Paralympics.

“The ParaOrchestra made its first public appearance on 1 July 2012 during Hazlewood’s music festiva Orchestra in a Field at Glastonbury Abbey; the performance included its versions of Greensleeves and Maurice Ravel’s Boléro. The orchestra’s style incorporates a large amount of improvisation, intended to allow the orchestra to feel a sense of “collective ownership” of their performances.” courtesy of Wikipedia

HERE is the link to Charles Hazelwood’s TED presentation Trusting the Ensemble, which includes discussion of the ParaOrchestra and a delightful performance of the Scottish Ensemble. It’s twenty-minutes and recommended.

And now the British ParaOrchestra in performance supporting Cold Play at the 2012 ParaOlympics … you may want to grab a tissue …

– complied by Jamie Dedes


The focus of "The BeZine," a publication of The Bardo Group Beguines, is on sacred space (common ground) as it is expressed through the arts. Our work covers a range of topics: spirituality, life, death, personal experience, culture, current events, history, art, and photography and film. We share work here that is representative of universal human values however differently they might be expressed in our varied religions and cultures. We feel that our art and our Internet-facilitated social connection offer a means to see one another in our simple humanity, as brothers and sisters, and not as “other.” This is a space where we hope you’ll delight in learning how much you have in common with “other” peoples. We hope that your visits here will help you to love (respect) not fear. For more see our Info/Mission Statement Page.

2 thoughts on “The Orchestra of Impossible Beauty

  1. Love, love, love this. And trust them to pick that song … True Colours; so right. I love to see people making music, especially those whose normal access to music would be inhibited. Lovely and very appropriate piece, Jamie.


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