“Cultural references can be modern and that will become heritage in the future. Heritage Orchestra makes people think about what their cultural inheritance is, because often it isn’t Brahms and Beethoven; it’s something more recent.” The concoction of genre-defying sonic art and workaday venue is characteristic of Wheeler and Heritage Orchestra’s work. Characteristic, yet not typical; there’s nothing runof-the-mill about this 30-year-old director and his band of merry men and women. Formed in 2004 as part of a burgeoning alternative club scene, Heritage Orchestra developed into an in-demand ensemble that was quick to prove it had something different to offer. It happened, Wheeler reveals, “very organically and naturally.” “[Heritage Orchestra] wasn’t a planned development,” he muses, sipping his pint thoughtfully. “Initially it was a oneoff event that sparked something in our minds. We were all filled with post-college idealism – we thought we could do anything. We were very reactive to everything. I’m not saying that still isn’t there, but it was the underlying [impetus] to what we were doing back then.” The ‘we’ Wheeler refers to describes himself and Jules Buckley, chief conductor and orchestrator. Disillusioned with the current state of the classical world, Buckley and Wheeler sought to establish a group that would transcend styles, break boundaries and shatter stereotypes about modern instrumental music. “We saw potential from a very flippant start,” Wheeler continues. “Initially we had throwaway, almost stupid ideas, like having a massive orchestra in a club, with a stage so big that you couldn’t fit any punters in.
88 THE DREAM FACTORY
Since then we have had to become more serious. There’s been a struggle between the post-college ‘fun’ orchestra – a scratch orchestra – to holding our own on the professional stages.” Having collaborated with the likes of Massive Attack, and with acts like Bat for Lashes cropping up in future plans, Heritage Orchestra has more than made its mark. “Our infrastructure is more established and expectation is growing,” explains Wheeler. “We’re now able to command a certain amount of clout – but we still like to rock out. It’s not like we suddenly want to be a ‘proper’ orchestra, we love playing ridiculously raucous sets but we’ve been able to improve, really working as an orchestra should.” The semantics surrounding the group’s name is often called into question. If they represent something of a twenty-firstcentury soundclash then why choose a name that seems shackled to a retrospective golden age? Much like their title, the collective’s forward-thinking approach, Wheeler explains, is open to misinterpretation. “We’re not a contemporary classical orchestra and we’re not a symphonic orchestra or a chamber orchestra,” he says. “I suppose we’re like a beats orchestra – a lot of our stuff tends to be based around beats, whether they’re electronic or instrumental. But then, I don’t really like describing us as that either… A lot of the stuff is groove-based, but that doesn’t sit well with the guys in the normal classical orchestras and it doesn’t sit well with the experimental, avant-garde orchestras, both of which we admire.
Published on Jun 25, 2010