virtual reality

Virtual reality: Get on stage at the Royal Festival Hall & conduct an orchestra

By Kitty Knowles 29 January 2016

From an experience that lets you conduct an orchestra, to behind-the-scenes tours of Abbey Road, virtual reality is changing the way we access music.

For most classical music fans the idea of getting on stage with a world-class orchestra is the stuff of dreams.

Now, you can almost grasp the baton, as a new virtual reality experience comes to London’s Southbank Centre.

The Philharmonia Orchestra has partnered with VR studio Inition to transport you to the banks of the Thames, behind-the-scenes at the Royal Festival Hall, and onto the stage as principal conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen delivers a performance of Sir Jean Sibelius’s Symphony No 5.

The experience is set to premiere at the Philharmonia’s digital takeover at the Southbank Centre, which will celebrate a number of digital works including the company’s largest production Universe of Sound.

This will see the Royal Festival Hall foyer transformed into giant digital performance of Gustav Holst’s “The Planets”, with 37 screens, a giant dome, and a percussion room where you can play along to the music.

You conduct the orchestra

The exhibition will also feature “conductor pods” where you can conduct the orchestra. Players will have to keep in time or their virtual musicians will go out of tune and object by coughing loudly.

The Philharmonic Orchestra hope to redesign the software as an app so people will be able conduct an orchestra from their living rooms using motion sensor equipment such as the Sony PlayStation Move and a VR headset.

Take a virtual tour Inside Abbey Road. Pic: Google

Go backstage at Abbey Road Studios

The Philharmonia experience is not the first time virtual reality has been used to open up the world of music.

Last year Google collaborated with London’s iconic Abbey Road music studios to let the public step inside for the very first time.

By visiting the Inside Abbey Road website you can take tour the venue where artists like The Beatles, Pink Floyd, and Radiohead have all recorded albums.

Wander around using Google Maps-style exploration, and enjoy additional multi-media like YouTube videos, interactive exhibits and more.

You can text your mixing skills, watch performances of films scores to Star Wars and Harry Potter; see Oasis recording Dig Out Your Soul or performances by the likes of Sam Smith and Amy Winehouse.

The Philharmonia Orchestra’s Universe of Sound will run at the Southbank Centre from 23 September – 2 October.

Read more: Let Björk serenade you on a beach & help save the music industry

Read more: Britain loves Booktrack: Bringing ebooks to life with cinematic sounds

Read more: Inside SoundLab: The life-changing new instruments of tomorrow