El Presidente and I attended a jolly hilarious concert at the Royal Festival Hall a couple of weeks ago, which was in aid of the Musicians' Benevolent Fund, featuring the musician and comedian Rainer Hersch conducting the Firebird Orchestra. Special guests were Alastair McGown and the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain. It was the Ukes' involvement that had prompted our attendance.
Well, it were a right hoot and no mistake. Also appearing were soprano Lindsay Sutherland Boal and pianist Marc Andre Hamelin.
You might have come across Mr Hersch on Radio 4 where he has done a few series over the years; I recall one he did called 'All Classical Music Explained'. I would summarise his approach to classical music as being an affectionate mickey-take, and they were so many laughs it's difficult to know where to start...but, for example, Ms Boal performed 'The Laughing Song' from Die Fledermaus in German while a translation into English was projected onto a screen behind. The translation was, of course, all wrong and totally hilarious. She went on to perform the third verse, after first finding a bottle of champagne, by gargling the tune. How she did that without cracking up and choking, I don't know. We were in stitches.
Mr Hamelin performed 'The Colonel Bogey March' arranged as a Beethoven piano sonata - what a hoot. He strung it out, pretty much like Beethoven tends to, with several false endings and dramatic contrasts. Fabuloso!
Prior to the interval, Mr Hersch invited the audience to text in suggestions for styles in which to perform Beethoven's 'Ode to Joy' from his Ninth Symphony. Thus we got to hear Old Ludwig's tune in reggae, Country & Western, ragtime, and combined with the riff from 'Smoke on the Water'.
Alastair McGowan did a stand up routine, incorporating some of his voice impressions including David Beckham. He also performed a rewritten version of The Mikado, which he contrived to rhyme with shopping with Ocado. McGowan also took the part of the narrator for a bowdlerised version Peter and The Wolf, which featured The Ukes. The main joke here was that the Ukes, rather than the different orchestral instruments, played all of the animals' parts. They also did a solo spot, playing the 'Theme from Shaft', and George did his Donald Duck impersonation. The Ukes were a little subdued but I guess they are not used to playing with an orchestra.
Any road up it were fandabbydozey and if Mr Hersch and Co do it again next year, buy tickets!