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Take It From the Top and Make It Sing

January 24, 2002

"So Bad It's Good" (Jan. 16) about "outsider music" reminds me of the Portsmouth Symphonia, whose brief shining moment came in the 1970s in the United Kingdom.

Far and away the worst symphony orchestra ever to have recorded, its music would fill the concert halls of England with fans. A full-size orchestra of extremely untalented musicians, they would attempt bravura pieces such as Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture" and Rossini's "William Tell Overture" at breakneck speed.

I don't know how much they rehearsed, but it wouldn't make any difference to the quality of their performances. One reviewer noted that at the end of a piece, the brass section was several bars out of sync with the rest of the band. They may have been performing from a genuine love of music, but the audiences loved them for their delicious awfulness. Even the Taliban would have had a hard time resisting them.

WILLIAM MALCOMSON

Glendale

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