Review: Rainer Hersch's April Fools Day Concert, RFH

Easter Monday coincided with April Fools Day this year so I spent the afternoon at the Royal Festival Hall where Rainer Hersch was hosting his annual comedy classical music concert. I could not help noticing that the audience bore scant relation to a typical comedy audience. This was very much a classical music audience (and their polite, bespectacled children) there to chuckle politely at jokes about how long Mahler's symphonies are and what Beethoven's German lyrics really meant. Their idea of irreverence was speeding up the tempo of the Sailor's Hornpipe.

It was all good fun and special guest Alistair McGowan chipped in with some "proper" comedy as well as a nice rewrite of Gilbert and Sullivan, rhyming "Mikado" with "Ocado". But it did make me yearn for something grittier in a club or something in a small theatre. I'm not saying comedy always has to be edgy, but this was comedy at its absolute cosiest, for people who probably think the comedy on Radio 4 at 6.30pm is dominated by raving anarchists. Let's just hope the audience here never encounter Jerry Sadowitz or they might spontaneously combust.


April Fools Day started at around 4pm this Monday for Rainer Hersch with yesterday afternoon’s Musicians Benevolent Fund benefit. As the comedian-conductor explained, the charity recently gave money to One Direction, “but it wasn’t enough. They are still playing”. If you enjoy corny gags like that, sometimes with musical backing, you would have loved this undemanding show.

Hersch shone as genial MC but let the London Firebird Orchestra and guests hog the limelight as they put twists on the likes of Beethoven and Strauss. Lindsay Sutherland Boal demonstrated a useful party trick of gargling Die Fledermaus, while pianist Marc-André Hamelin delivered snappy keyboard quips.

The audience had to croon for their supper, with some singalongaludwig, before impressionist Alistair McGowan segued from crowd-specific Radio 3 gags into a more familiar riff featuring Roy Hodgson as Fagin, which was crying out for musical accompaniment.

After the parlour game prank of ragtime and reggae versions of Ode To Joy proceedings gathered momentum with the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain contributing to a big finish of Peter and the Wolf followed by their funkily strummed version of Isaac Hayes’s Shaft. An apt choice for an event that mined music to unearth plenty of laughs.

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