The comedian, Rainer Hersch conducted and presented the first half of the concert on Sunday 11 July by Philharmonia Britannica.
He used a combination of jokes, re-compositions of well-known classics, and juggling tricks to bring a new life to the concert format. While many of the audience were elderly, they equally warmed to comedian and joined in with enthusiasm.
Who on earth is Rainer Hersch?
Rainer Hersch is a comedian and musician who has performed on every major comedy stage in Britain and abroad. He has appeared twelve times at the Edinburgh Festival; had numerous comedy-concert series at the South Bank in London; featured in comedy clubs all across Europe and in TV shows around the world.
However, particularly at the beginning of the concert I was so engrossed with the audience participation (in group 3 saying cuc-koo to the accompaniment of the Hornpipe) that I didn’t get a chance to properly listen to the orchestra. The concert encourages a different intensity of listening. The music tended to be short extracts or broken up with dialogue. This is ideal for people new to classical music, but if you didn’t know anything about music, some of the jokes may not make sense, particularly the mickey takes about Mahler’s 1st Symphony.
The the traditional venue of a church felt slightly at odds with the content of the concert (and some of the jokes) and I wonder whether it would better suited to a jazz club like atmosphere where the audience could warm up beforehand with a few drinks. Furthermore, a little more distance from the orchestra and seating may have made some audience members feel more comfortable and safe from the comment of the comedian.
My favourite act was Rainer conducting the Polka-dot Waltz by juggling in time to the music and the 1st violinists following the higher throw of the ball for the last note.