Portsmouth Sinfonia

Portsmouth Sinfonia

The self-proclaimed "world's worst orchestra" was founded by Gavin Bryars in 1970 when he was lecturing at the Portsmouth School of Art.

Bryars wanted to engage the masses with classical music, and sought a way to liberate the form from the pomposity of its audience. His idea was to form an orchestra of the people. Anyone could join, regardless of skill.

The orchestra comprised known musicians playing instruments they had no knowledge of, virtuoso players and people who had never played an instrument in their lives. Their oeuvré would encompass the popular classics and rock songs - music that could be played by ear. No sight-reading skills were therefore required. The virtuoso players kept everything vaguely within the realms of what might be called a tune, with the other players reaching for (and missing) notes nearby. The result was a fascinating atonal mess of a noise, one which was considered profound by several of Bryars classical contemporaries.

The hilarious results of this experiment led to the Portsmouth Sinfonia's records being pitched at the comedy market which earned them a cult following, enough for them to be selling out the Royal Albert Hall by 1974.

Although it ceased performing in 1982, the Portsmouth Sinfonia never formally disbanded. At the time of writing (March 2006) there are whispers that more concerts might just be forthcoming…

Portsmouth Sinfonia Discography


TRA 275 Portsmouth Sinfonia Plays The Popular Classics (Album) Transatlantic Records TRA 275 UK 1973 Sell This Version
TRA 285 Portsmouth Sinfonia Hallelujah (Album) Transatlantic Records TRA 285 UK 1974 Sell This Version
6308 315 The Portsmouth Sinfonia* 20 Classic Rock Classics (Album) Philips 6308 315 Germany 1979 Sell This Version

Singles & EPs

LYN 2004 Portsmouth Sinfonia William Tell Overture(Flexi, 7", S/Sided) Lyntone LYN 2004 UK 1970 Sell This Version
AS 91 Portsmouth Sinfonia William Tell Overture / Also Sprach Zarathustra Op. 31 (Excerpt)(7", Single, Promo) Columbia AS 91 US 1974 Sell This Version
M 25.609 Portsmouth Sinfonia An Der Schönen Blauen Donau / Also Sprach Zarathustra(7", Single) Transatlantic Records M 25.609 Germany 1974 Sell This Version
WIP 6736 The Portsmouth Sinfonia* Classical Muddly (Single) Springtime Records WIP 6736 UK 1981 Sell This Version
BIG 515 Portsmouth Sinfonia William Tell Overture(7") Transatlantic Records BIG 515 UK Unknown Sell This Version