Art and sound collide as NZSO gets with the 2011 programme

High culture is often seen as the exclusive domain of the rich, old and über-educated. And “stuffy” is the word Kirsten Leighs, an account director at design agency The Church, uses to describe the highfalutin image of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra (NZSO) before 2009, when the two outfits started working together.

As part of an attempt to breathe a bit of life into the NZSO, make it more appealing to a younger audience and compete with the huge array of leisure activities now on offer, Leighs and The Churchgoers spent over 550 hours creating the marketing collateral for the 2011 season, focusing on “opening up the stories behind the music”.

Every musical masterpiece tells a story, so to convey these stories quickly and compellingly, five themes were chosen: glory, passion, heart, colour and revolution, each of which has been brought to life in scenes featuring members of the orchestra playing characters from those stories.

For example, the artwork for the glory theme features cello player Roger Brown dressed in the military uniform of Napoleonic France riding a rearing war horse. In the same artwork other musicians play angels and conductors of the time.

Leighs says “it was a huge task”, both because of a few doubts within the NZSO and the logistic nightmare of trying to organise 100 musicians, not usually renowned as the most practical of beings, to turn up on time for their photo shoots.

In the world of classical music, as with many fields, there are purists who seek to preserve and progressives who welcome change. But commercial necessity dictated these changes and, in the end, Leighs says everyone came on board.

“They ended up having lots of fun, especially when we started dressing them up and making them feel like superstars,” she says.

Check out the cool making of video here.

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