Friday, 30 March 2012

And now we are one: the DWFO's virtual anniversary

On this day, March 29, one year ago, Stephen Willis posted in the world's main Doctor Who online forum. He suggested a virtual orchestra, with choir, and that it be called the Doctor Who Fan Orchestra. He offered his arrangement of Murray Gold's 'I am the Doctor,' in 16 parts and SATB choir, and then offered to mix together our audiorecordings. So we responded; my own first reply was "What key is it in?" A week later violist Jalen Lee suggested adding video to the audio--I mention that because although it seems obvious in hindsight, the first project and its primary features did not start out as a sure thing!

Next came the generous, gutsy, and passionate work of three dozen musical Doctor Who fans, some patience and nail-biting while waiting for submissions, and finally Stephen's careful mixing. The results went to YouTube in early July 2011, and so began the next stages of this wild and wonderful ride. We made history--but even more so than we realized at the time. For this first anniversary of the DWFO, allow me to show my pride in our now-hundreds of members, and most of all in Stephen's perseverance and hard work--by pointing out our frankly amazing, pioneering accomplishments.

Looking back, it began with the Whitacre Virtual Choir in 2009; its volunteers worldwide submit performances of the composer's vocal works under his direction. There have also been proposals and recruiting for several virtual amateur orchestras (i.e. instrumental groups)--the idea was a thriving internet meme of 2011.

But to my knowledge, the Doctor Who Fan Orchestra is:
- the first virtual orchestra to actually produce and release a work (whether fan or mainstream repertoire, professional or amateur basis!);
- the first to combine orchestral and choral elements in a large virtual collaboration; and
- the first internationally-based fan orchestra.

As others on this blog have pointed out: the membership, the score partitures, and in fact the musicianship, have all expanded tremendously since that first DWFO piece last summer. We are also proud to have inspired the recent creation of the Sherlock Fan Orchestra. Time will tell if other groups--and fandoms--follow suit. In the meantime, Stephen is planning more DWFO projects this (second) year, and we think you'll like them. Stay tuned for... well, just stay tuned!

Robin LaPasha
Assistant Coordinator


  1. Footnotes to the above...
    * Terminology: by "virtual orchestra" I mean "participants in different locations submitting separate recordings/performances towards a joint virtual project." That excludes the YouTube Orchestra (auditions towards a live orchestra location/performance) and the Allegro Youth "virtual" Orchestra (recordings by a single-location school orchestra).
    * Virtual orchestras (following our lead) with releases: The "Little Symphony" released their first work in January 2012, making them the second successful virtual orchestra. The Sherlock Fan Orchestra produced their first short piece this month (March 2012).
    * Fan orchestras: I found only 2 non-virtual fan orchestras; a Denver-based "Symphonic Anime Orchestra" with a fan participation component, and--trusting someone else's translation work--the "Littlejack [fan] Orchestra" of Japan performing music from the Final Fantasy video games.
    * Virtual orchestras unfinished: An "Overgrowth Volunteer [virtual] Orchestra" was announced in February 2010; unfinished September 2011. The Young Composers' forum discussed a "virtual-choir/ensemble," unfinished October 2011. Composer Glen Rhodes announced a project in January 2011, unreleased. BBC Radio requested help of virtual participants to play the "Archers" radio theme tune in May-June 2011; results unknown.

  2. A great story so far... and i´m proud to be part of it now! :-)


    1. Happy birthday to us! I'm proud to be involved in this project, and am having a great time, too. :)

  3. Congratulations everyone! This is my first project in a virtual orchestra and I certainly hope it isn’t the last. It’s one of the wonders of the internet and has brought so many people together! Love you everyone!!! ☮