The 12.12.12 Underground Challenge Orchestra perform, January 26

Posted on January 15th, 2013 in News, Recent posts by .

In March last year we picked up on a unique project that despite its ambitious intent, seemed nigh on impossible. 

On January 1 2012, musician Shaun Buswell set himself the task of compiling an orchestra (30-100 strong) comprised of mere strangers he met whilst travelling on London’s Underground network. The rules were simple: Shaun was only allowed to recruit musicians he had met on the underground for the first time (strictly within the gates of the station); the musicians must have their instrument on them at the time he meets them and Shaun must write all music to be performed. Oh, and did we mention he couldn’t read a note of music at the time of setting the challenge?

By the end of year he’d spoken to 380 musicians, although he was unable to form a full orchestra in time for the ominous 12.12.12 date. Despite successful preliminary rehearsals, a performance in a capsule on the London Eye and coverage from the BBC, Shaun, now unemployed and in financially dire straits was on the verge of quitting the challenge for good. 


This is where Daytrippers, a charity founded in 2003 to help children with disabilities and life-limiting illnesses enjoy amazing experiences, stepped in to lend their support and Shaun has been more than welcome to return the favour. Leila Talmadge of Daytrippers, said:

‘When Daytrippers first heard about Shaun we realised he had set himself a huge musical challenge, against the odds considering he cannot read or write music. We believe the 12.12.12 Underground Challenge will make a huge impact with the story and bringing a community together, whilst having fun working hard towards making it happen.

With their help, and the support of many others, the orchestra that Shaun has worked to compile is to perform at London’s Shepherd’s Bush Empire on January 26. The evening will feature the premiere screening of a documentary charting the trials and tribulations of the project, followed by a performance with music from Holtz, Dvorjak, Grieg and original compositions scored by Shaun himself. He stated:

‘Its been an absolutely amazing year – and completely all-consuming, as I’ve worked non-stop in between my ‘day job’ as the leader of a touring orchestral, folk and indie act.’

I’ve kept tabs on this project as it turned from the optimistic novelty, to an all-encompassing traumatic experience – a transformation starkly apparent in Shaun’s blog and Facebook posts. To dismiss the challenge as a failure would be a disservice to Shaun’s efforts, for although the performance was not on December 12 2012, the orchestral performers had been selected and by all means the challenge was complete; an effort of gargantuan proportions.

Tickets for the event can be purchased here.

Shaun also has a fundraising web page, which can be accessed via the project’s own website, to help cover the costs of staging the event. The page features goodies and exclusive rewards in return for pledges.

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