Saturday, May 03, 2014

Strictly Benjamin

Ben at the piano - Concert HallA couple of years ago Ben made his backhoe debut on the French farm, and it is with nearly as much excitement that Gustav and I took our seats at the Sydney Opera House this evening for his concert debut at that venue. The program “Strictly Luhrmann” was principally comprised of classical pieces featuring in Baz Luhrmann’s films, with some suites of soundtrack edits rounding out the mix. Ben’s major contribution was as pianist for Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue as used in the score for The Great Gatsby – both here and in the actual soundtrack.

Reference score Ben soothes the savage beast
Ben stayed with us for his first few days in Sydney, moving to hotel digs closer to the Opera House for his final nights. On Saturday I found a set of his scores left in the guest room, and brought them along to hand over post concert. When he and Leah visited Sydney last year we hadn’t yet moved back into our house and couldn’t offer them accommodation, so it wasn’t till this week that Ben got to stay with us again, and adjust to seeing the farmhouse furniture in new surroundings, although of course with Munson still on the sofa.
Artiste and familiar in repose
Earlier in the week I had a dinner out with Ben and conductor Matt Dunkley at a great Thai restaurant in Newtown. Not only does the Thai Pothong have a wicked menu, but it has a gift-shop with scrap-metal recreations of Alien, Predator, and Optimus Prime. I’d not met Matt before, but over dinner conversation learned that we shared a common experience of listening to Rick Wakeman’s prog rock keyboard music in our teen years.
Matt and Ben with fellow lifesized monsters Gustav, Daniel & Aaron at Opera House bar
Back to the concert – while settling into our complimentary box seats, a look at our Facebook feed revealed that some friends, Aaron & Daniel were also at this concert, and by the angle of the stage photo they’d posted, not far away. I took a look over into the next box, and sure enough, they were only sitting a few metres away. This was great for Gustav at intermission, as chatting with them helped fight against his jetlag from his Copenhagen to Sydney flight yesterday.

After the concert, Ben had other musical duties, having arranged to participate in a free post-concert program in the northern foyer. This SSO Night Lounge event began with some works that Ben had commissioned years earlier, followed by a movement from Brahms’ Piano Quintet (below), and then a recomposed version of  Rimsky Korsakov’s Scheherezade with DJ JayKay Mystery.

Ben and SSO members play Brahms Piano Quintet

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