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YouTube Launches Second Orchestral Project

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Google is once again bringing its mighty influence to the performing arts, announcing the return of the YouTube Symphony Orchestra on Tuesday.

Following its first global online orchestra, which brought together 96 musicians from 30 countries for a concert at Carnegie Hall in April 2009, YouTube is moving the festivities to the land down under, to perform at the Sydney Opera House in March 2011.

The announcement, which took place through a video uplink between Carnegie's Zankel Hall and the Sydney Opera House, described plans for a week-long summit of rehearsals and master classes preceding the concert. Michael Tilson Thomas, the media-connected music director of the San Francisco Symphony, will return to conduct the event.

The global auditioning process for the orchestra will be similar to the debut edition, albeit with some new wrinkles.

As before, musicians must upload audition videos at to show off their abilities in excerpts of the standard orchestral repertory, which they can do between now and November 28. A panel of judges from top orchestras around the world will then select a group of semifinalists. In December, YouTube users will get to vote for their favorite musicians online. The winning musicians will be announced on Jan. 11, 2011.

This time around performers can also submit a solo improvisation to Mothership, a piece composed specifically for the orchestra by Mason Bates, the composer-in-residence of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The piece features multiple sections that can be opened up for extended improvisations. Two examples were presented at the press launch, one by the fiddler Mark O'Connor and the other by Robert Campbell, an Australian didgeridoo performer.

The premise of the solo portion is to open up the audition pool to a wider spectrum of non-classical musicians.

The 2009 orchestra was assembled from more than 3,000 submitted audition videos, which were viewed by some 15 million users. The Carnegie Hall concert featured a series of short, accessible pieces that had been rehearsed for several days, and included such guest soloists as Gil Shaham, Yuja Wang, Measha Brueggergosman and Joshua Roman.

With the Sydney Opera House, YouTube and its partners purposefully sought out a location that was on the opposite side of the world from New York City, said YouTube Senior Marketing Manager Ed Sanders. Although YouTube is blocked by the Chinese government, the proximity to other Pacific Rim countries suggests a desire to connect with a part of the world where classical music has exploded in recent years.