Flashmobbing for Joy and Politics | The Nation

Greg Mitchell

Greg Mitchell

Media, politics and culture.

Flashmobbing for Joy and Politics

A Beethoven Flash Mob in Hong Kong, 28 July 2013

The Hong Kong Festival Orchestra performs the "Ode" at a local shopping center (Courtesy of Bill Moyers)

A few weeks back, I reported on a global phenomenon of the past year or so: Flash mobs performing the “Ode to Joy” from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, often (though not always) with a political purpose in mind. Venues for the flash mobs or public performances of the “Ode” have ranged from a huge mall in Hong Kong to a public protest with half a million in the streets of Madrid, from the kickoff of the recent demonstrations in Kiev to a farmers’ market in Austin and an IKEA in suburban Detroit. The theme of the “Ode,” of course, is “all are brothers and sisters.”

But you don’t need to live in or near a large city to pull this off in your region. Example: just posted today—a cool video of a wonderful flash mob that I helped organize in Nyack, New York, following a sold-out screening of our Following the Ninth film (which I co-produced) last month.

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The hosts for the screening, Rivertown Film Society, shot it from the balcony and with three roving cameras on the floor, then edited the video. The musicians hail from local orchestras, arranged by Arlene Keiser, with singers from Nyack High. They had exactly one rehearsal just before the screening, at another site. Yes, the audience was surprised. The young conductor is Rob Keiser. It was a smashing, inspiring success—people are still talking about it around town, and plans are going forward for an outdoor sequel this spring.

This is all in keeping with the theme of the film (featured in recent segments on Bill Moyers’s PBS show and NPR’s All Things Considered), which explores the amazing politiical and cultural influence of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony around the world, and our book, Journeys With Beethoven. Concerning the phenomenon of “Ode to Joy” flash mobs: I’ve posted some of them over the past few months. Maybe you’d like to try it in your home town?

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