Here’s where the strings — and zingers — come in ConcertPReview
ASECOND fringe success story in as many months makes his triumphant return to a Winnipeg stage tonight.
Conductor/comedian Rainer Hersch, who toiled at the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival for close to a decade starting in 1994, takes over the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra baton tonight at the Centennial Concert Hall.
Just last month, Victoria comedian Mike Delamont, the artist behind the God Is a Scottish Drag Queen fringe shows that have kept Winnipeg fringegoers in stitches over several festivals, performed a one-nighter at the Pantages Playhouse Theatre.
Performing at festivals like the Winnipeg fringe was a key career stepping stone, Hersch says.
“The Canadian fringe circuit allowed me to do solo shows, to work out my style. It was a very formative time for me,” says the 53-year-old Brit, who performs at concert halls across Great Britain, Ireland, Germany and Turkey early in 2016.
He’s also branched out into radio and television since his fringe days, guesting on BBC and ITV shows in Britain.
At the fringe, Hersch often performed his classical music send-ups solo at the piano. While the comedic premise remains the same when he leads orchestras like the WSO, the difference is the amount of rehearsal time to ensure his comic timing meshes with dozens of orchestral musicians.
With the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra Centennial Concert Hall Tonight, 7:30 p.m.
“The speed of your juggling can dictate to how the orchestra plays,” he says. “I want to choose where the connection of the juggling and the music is most noticeable. I’ve chosen something with a specific technique that lends itself to the comedy.”
Hersch is often compared to legendary Danish comedian Victor Borge, who performed his brand of symphonic laughs with orchestras around the world for decades starting in the 1940s.
“The longevity of his career inspired me,” jokes Hersch, “but comedically, I came to him after I started doing this, really. I found that I wandered onto Victor Borge’s turf.”
Hersch’s return to Winnipeg has brought back many fond memories of his fringe days. While he will perform before more than 1,000 people at the Centennial Concert Hall tonight, he remembers telling his jokes before a couple of dozen at a small stage at Royal MTC’s Warehouse theatre in 1994.
He also recalls Manitoba’s natural phenomena.
“I remember one time on one of my days off I went out to Lake Winnipeg when those fish flies appear,” he says. “When I woke up in the morning they were on the car like a carpet.”
Hersch and the WSO will also perform Sunday at 3 p.m. at the Western Manitoba Centennial Auditorium in Brandon. Tickets can be purchased at wcma.ca.
Conductor/comedian Rainer Hersch will join the WSO tonight.