Not Your Average Flash Mob: The Copenhagen Phil Plays the Metro


(Photo courtesy

The best link in this morning’s Twitter feed came from Christopher Jobson over at Colossal.

Last month the Copenhagen Philharmonic pulled off an audacious stunt—performing Edvard Grieg’s Peer Gynt on a crowded, moving metro train for unsuspecting passengers. The flash mob was created in collaboration with Radio Klassisk. All music was performed and recorded in the metro.

Peer Gynt is the incidental music to Henrik Ibsen’s 1867 play of the same name, written by the Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg in 1875. It premiered along with the play on February 24th, 1876 in Norway. Grieg later extracted eight movements to make two four-movement suites. As Erica Jeal explains in the Guardian, Grieg always wanted to write a truly Norwegian opera; he never did, but the incidental music he wrote for Ibsen’s play is the nearest he came. Grieg’s dream of seeing this piece performed out the theater and in the concert hall was never fulfilled in his lifetime.

The below video features the movement “Morning Mood,” which depicts the rising of the sun during Act IV, Scene 4 of Ibsen’s play. In this scene the play’s hero finds himself stranded in the Moroccan desert after his companions have taken his yacht and abandoned him there while he slept.

I love the juxtaposition of this quiet, peaceful piece with the moving metro train and bustling, preoccupied commuters. It’s also poignant to watch the expressions on the passengers faces as they transform from suspicion and discomfort into delight.

It just goes to prove that classical music doesn’t have to contained in concert halls or only enjoyed by an elite few.

Thanks to Christopher Jobson for passing on this link.



Further Listening

While Grieg lovers will undoubtedly have their own favorite Peer Gynt album, this 1998 EMI recording by Sir Thomas Beecham and Royal Philharmonic Orchestra remains a favorite amongst classical music aficionados. The album is part of EMI’s Masters Series and was recorded, mastered, or re-mastered at the internationally renowned Abbey Road Studios in London.






Jazz lovers might also be interested in Duke Ellington’s interpretation of Peer Gynt, which was recorded in 1960 on his Swinging Suites by Edward E. and Edward G. album. In 1990 the album was rereleased on CD as Three Suites along with Ellington’s reworking of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker. Earlier this year a remastered version of Ellington’s Peer Gynt was released along with Strayhorn’s Suite Thursday.



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By | 2016-11-11T21:53:05+00:00 05.25.12|Greatest Hits, News, Performance, Sounds|4 Comments

About the Author:

I’ve spent almost 20 years helping thousands of successful artists of all disciplines and working to make the arts more accessible. (One friend likes to call me “the arts enabler.”) From 1999-2012 I worked at The MacDowell Colony, the nation’s oldest artist colony, but I've also done time at an arts magazine, a library, an art museum, and a raptor rehabilitation center. In May of 2012 I left MacDowell to pursue writing, speaking, curating, and creative projects full-time. In 2015 I was named a “Top 100 Artist, Innovator, Creative” by Origin magazine. I've appeared as an arts and culture commentator on New Hampshire Public Radio, and in 2017 I was the recipient of the Wampler Art Professorship at James Madison University. I am the founder of the Gwarlingo Salon series, which connects artists like DJ Spooky with rural audiences in the Monadnock region. In 2017 my collaborator Corwin Levi and I will publish our first book, Mirror Mirrored, which combines Grimms’ fairy tales with vintage illustration remixes and the work of contemporary artists like Kiki Smith, Carrie Mae Weems, and Amy Cutler. I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, but have called New Hampshire home since 1999. My studio is located in the historic, mill village of Harrisville. I miss fried okra, the early southern spring, and restaurants that stay open past 9:00 p.m., but rural life agrees with me. In New Hampshire I can see the stars, go kayaking or snowshoeing, watch bald eagles fish in the lake, and focus on my creative work in silence. I no longer have to worry about traffic jams; deer, wild turkeys, and frost heaves are the primary road hazards here. Although I live in the country, I’m fortunate enough to be part of a vibrant arts community that extends beyond this small New England village. The quiet days are punctuated by regular travel and frequent visits to museums, theaters, readings, arts events, lectures, and open studios around the country. (You can read my full CV here.) Thanks for visiting Gwarlingo. I hope you'll be in touch.


  1. Tammy May 8, 2012 at 5:04 pm

    Love it. Now THAT would make the morning metro ride extra special! And, of course, hearing that particular piece makes me think of my beloved childhood album (which I still have), Peter and the Wolf. My mother would have me listen for specific instruments and I loved the challenge. Thanks for the trip down memory lane, Michelle!

  2. Jeffrey Gross May 8, 2012 at 6:13 pm

    Thanks very much for this, Michelle. Glad they got a better reaction than Joshua Bell in DC. The expression of the little girl at 0:57 is priceless, one of many lovely moments. Our local classical station in NYC (WQXR) uses the tag, “classical music elevates everything.” I don’t need proof (despite my many issues w/ QXR), but if one did, this might do it. That brings up the e-word (“elitism”), about which much ink could be spilled. But the post put me in too good a mood, so never mind. Still, could it be that an elitist is just one who prefers good things to bad? Judging from their facial expressions, the riders fit neatly into that category… On that, er, note, thanks again.

  3. Colette May 8, 2012 at 7:10 pm

    I loved watching people with iPods disconnect and enjoy the incredible music around them! By doing so, they became part of the event. Excellence can be appreciated by anyone, whether they are familiar with classical music or not, as is evident by the expressions on passengers of all ages.

  4. Not You Average Flash Mob – Flavorlab May 31, 2012 at 12:06 pm

    […] found this video on , a really cool website that features inventive and inspiring artists. Thanks Gwarlingo! 0 COMMENTS […]

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