A SOUTHAMPTON orchestra is going virtual - and global.

More than 100 young music lovers have already signed up for the free Virtual Youth Orchestra from across the city and UK and as far afield as Australia and the USA.

Alex Pope, the Southampton music teacher and conductor who founded Showcase Music School in the city, is behind the project.

He aims to make sure that all children, aged seven to 18, have the opportunity to keep playing new music each week while off school.

The new orchestra have already released an upbeat classical version of the electropop hit Dance Monkey by Tones and I and will release another song each week while schools remain shut due to the coronavirus crisis.

It's an extension of the Showcase Young Players Orchestra who rehearse in Southampton every week.

Parts are available for all instruments of any ability so anyone can take part, but children must be able to read music at a basic level.

Alex told the Daily Echo: "The Showcase Young Players Orchestra are really the brains behind the idea. I am so proud of them.

"Our whole company ethos is that music should be accessible to all with no financial or cultural restrictions, hence the idea to launch the virtual orchestra during these times. We want to ensure children can keep playing each week with a new piece of music to keep them engaged and give them something to work towards and practise without face to face coaching.

"I am orchestrating parts for children who play instruments of all abilities to music from various styles and they will be provided with a part, a rehearsal track and a backing track to video themselves. The idea is that then I will combine all their videos into one massed orchestral performance via video each week featuring the children that take part.

"It is completely free and fun and a way to ensure children remain engaged during these tough times. Music is a universal language that brings us all together and this is our passion. Let's get the world playing!"

If successful, organisers hope to offer online workshops to support youngsters with their parts.

Showcase Music School bring life changing access to music to thousands of children across Hampshire and Dorset every week - providing free weekly access to choirs and an orchestra of over 50 musicians. Children have performed at top venues around the world, including recent trips to Paris and New York.

Alex Pope conducted and staged the 2018 Hampshire Festival of Remembrance at Southampton's Mayflower Theatre raising over £17,000 for the Royal British Legion, as well as the Southampton Celebration Proms on the same stage back in January 2017.

To sign up, visit showcasemusicschool.com/virtualorchestra or email virtualorchestra@showcasemusicschool.com