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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

RAINER HERSCH – ALL CLASSICAL MUSIC EXPLAINED TOO (article first published : 2001-06-13)

British music funny man Rainer Hersch asserts that he’s a freak. Why? Because he’s “a classical musician .. and a stand-up comedian.” I don’t think so - rather, he’s a highly energetic and offbeat personality with a good knowledge of classical music and knows how to send it up rotten.

Tonight’s audience in the Playhouse Opera utterly adored him, as no doubt will other audiences on his current South African tour. Tall and gangly, with legs and arms flailing about in an apparent unco-ordinated manner, he launches into his show with the best gag of all – extending his opening applause by conducting it and turning it into a percussive happening!

His props are numerous – a sculpted head with movable ears, a piece of wood with dowels that can play multiple chords and laminated cards “explaining” various orchestral instruments or new versions of the standard music theory mnemonic for remembering the lines of the stave (EGBDF). Most of these he throws away with gay abandon. A few moments of alarm were felt when he lifted a section of the grand piano off and there were visions of this being hurled into the wings. But these were quickly dispelled when he placed it with proper care next to the instrument.

Then there’s the didgeridoo which he bought in Australia for a vast amount of money only to discover that his vacuum cleaner’s pipe back home could produce the same effect.

The laugh lines come thick and fast. He breathes vigorous life into classical music and even gives time signatures a new metric equivalent.

Nothing is sacred. His interpretation of a concerto? “One bloke at the front showing off!” In a hilarious item, he lampoons conductors and the orchestra, involving the entire audience as the various sections - from strings to percussion. He asserts that opera originated in the Roman Catholic Church and there are only seven words sung in the entire Messiah.

And the man can play piano .. although he gives only a few tantalising examples of this. A couple of these demonstrate how both ABBA and Andrew Lloyd Webber have “stolen” from classical composers!

Entertainers and promoters Des and Dawn Lindberg have been in the business long enough to know a hit when they see it. I’ve seen Rainer Hersch every time he’s performed in South Africa since his first appearance a couple of years back. And he’s just as funny each time around.

This show is not just for those with an extensive knowledge of classical music and the theory of music. It’s hilarious entertainment for music lovers of all levels. It’s also refreshing to find a comedian who can generate guffaws of laughter without being crude or offensive.

Rainer Hersch and All Classical Music Explained Too has one more performance in KZN at the Hilton College Theatre on Thursday (June 14) at 20h00. Booking through Doreen on (033) 343-0126.




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