Comedian and classical musician Rainer Hersch is coming to Kent as the charismatic presenter of a brand new show for all ages, One Night in Vienna. He told Helen Geraghty all about it.
Classical music to improve and inform the masses? Forget it.
For maverick comedian and musician Rainer Hersch it is all about the entertainment of those great classical tunes. In all their toe-tapping, anthemic and rip-roaring glory.
In a new show, One Night in Vienna, coming to the county this week, the audience is whisked on a light-hearted and elegant journey through sparkling song and dance from Strauss classics to timeless dance music from Tchaikovsky.
For conductor and presenter Rainer, a trained classical pianist who has worked full-time as a comedian for 10 years, it is a cracking way to get everyone from children to their grandparents together to have fun with music.
Rainer, 50, says: “When you walk in there will be an orchestra on the stage, me hosting the show, kind of gluing the thing together and conducting and there’ll be 10 pieces of great, great music in each half. There’ll also be lots of surprises, a soprano and fantastic dancers. Rehearsals have been amazing.
“It’s music you will recognise, attacking on all fronts, a great one for children too, a real family event.”
Rainer is best known for his many comedy appearances on BBC Radio 4 and Classic FM. He’s appeared 12 times at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and his earlier stage show Rainer Hersch’s Victor Borge, his tribute to the Danish-American entertainer, has played to sell-out audiences around the world, including, as Rainer remembers, to an audience at the Trinity Theatre, Tunbridge Wells, just down the road from this venue, the Assembly Hall.
Rainer would love youngsters to come to the show, but fears that sometimes the way we approach music lessons for children lacks a certain something.
He says: “I took up the piano just because I loved the music, not because my parents told me to, I fell in love with the music. I think sometimes the whole music thing exists in a vacuum. Parents sometimes enrol the children and the parents never actually listen to the music, so the kids play their pieces and give up. There’s nothing driving it.
“If people come to the show and decide to dig out their classical CDs when they get home then that’s great but I’m not a teacher so I won’t be standing there telling anyone about the composers. My aim is entertainment and I hope I make music friendly.”
On being a comedian...
“It’s hard to work out why I hate talking about my job. At a party, chatting with a taxi driver or on holiday someone will say ‘so, what do you do then?’ ‘I’m a stand-up comedian’.
‘Really!? My goodness, that’s brave’.
“That’s how it starts. My stomach turns, my heart races a bit, my palms become slightly sweaty – it’s all a bit irrational. Then they’ll say ‘so where do you perform?’ ‘Where do you get your ideas from?’ ‘What was your name again? Ha ha. I can see what’s going to happen. I am going to end up in one of your sketches!’
“‘I don’t write sketches’ I’ll say. ‘Come on now – tell me about what you do?’ ‘Oh, I work for local government and I bet that is going to end up in one of your sketches’.
“There is also a range of remarks which are less than benign. You feel like you might have thrown them some kind of challenge. ‘Can you really earn a living doing that?’ – a friend of my mum’s asked me this every time I saw him for 15 years. ‘You’re a comedian are you – well say something funny then.’ ‘You’re in local government are you – well, come round and plant a tree.’ ‘When’s your next show so I can come along and heckle’. ‘What have I ever done to you? I am not threatening to turn up at the council and shout about what a lazy bunch you all are’.
“Or the classic ‘I’ve got a really good joke for you’ – some terrible racist or sexist yarn you couldn’t use in a million years.”
Rainer is married, has a dog and lives in Ealing, west London.
“If Mozart were in Britain today I think he would be pleasantly surprised at the way his music is so constantly heard wherever you go, in lifts, on ringtones and so on.
He would be gobsmacked at the way some tunes of his have become iconic. He would maybe even be slightly embarrassed. And I reckon he would have an iPod.”
One Night in Vienna, with Rainer Hersch, the Johann Strauss Orchestra, the Johann Strauss Dancers and soprano Charlotte Ellett comes to the Assembly Hall Theatre, Tunbridge Wells at 7.30pm on Thursday, January 24. Tickets from £26.50. Box office 01892 530613.