NEW Year in the Austrian capital Vienna traditionally means one thing – the waltz music of Johann Strauss and his contemporaries.
This year the tradition is travelling to Sheffield City Hall as part of a tour of a show called One Night in Vienna, based on the very best of the Viennese tradition in music and dance.
One Night in Vienna features the irrepressible showman and conductor Rainer Hersch, who will take a light-hearted journey through a sparkling assortment of song and dance.
From the classic works of the Strauss family, including The Blue Danube Waltz, Radetzky March, Thunder and Lightning Polka and Songs of Love Waltz to dance music from Tchaikovsky and Lehar, this performance will transport the audience back in time to a graceful world of elegance and billowing gowns.
Rainer and the Johann Strauss Orchestra will be joined by the Johann Strauss Dancers, who perform the waltzes in costumes of the period.
Completing the line-up is highly accomplished soprano Charlotte Ellett. who has performed with with the Halle Orchestra and at both Glyndebourne Festival Opera and the Welsh National Opera.
Rainer said: “It is going to be all singing and all dancing and a great night out.
“It’s New Year music following the tradition of concerts in Vienna on New Year’s Day to kick the new year off in the best way possible. The first one took place in 1939. What a good year that turned out to be!”
That joke has extra resonance for Rainer, as his father’s family fled Berlin and the Nazis for Britain in 1939 as war loomed.
The accomplished musician and conductor is also a comedian and the audience will be treated to lots of funny observations and anecdotes as part of the evening.
He has performed in lots of other shows with orchestras.
He is also passionate about music, presenting many shows on the BBC and Classic FM, including his All Classical Music Explained series.
He says: “Any good music will appeal to people in different ways. This has such great tunes, like The Blue Danube. you might not know the name when you hear it but you think it’s nice.
“There are also infinite details in it if you know it and you’re familiar with it. You get something out of it if you’re a first timer or an aficionado.
“Unlike a lot of classical music it’s very easy to understand and you can enjoy it on that basis quite quickly, unlike other great works and symphonies where you have to put in time before you start getting things out of it.
“I think that’s nice.”
Rainer says he wants to make classical music entertaining and approachable for audiences.
He added: “I’m playing a lot of the music straight, rather than messing around with it.
“It’s a much bigger production than I’ve done before. That’s really exciting. How cool is it that someone asked me to do that.
“I also love the fact that the music and dancing is all coming together in this show.”
He was a stand-up comedian for several years, using music in his routines, then realised that he wanted to start concentrating more on music.
“I’m not doing this because I wanted to teach people music. I want to make themn laugh. I couldn’t care less if they listen to their classical CDs, that’s not my aim.
“It’s something I’m interested in doing and like. I hope to make the evening funny and accessible. I’m not doing it as part of some educational project.”
He does have some great jokes, too, such as: “Beethoven famously wrote his first piece of music at the age of four.
“Of course, he wrote it in crayon…”
One Night in Vienna is at Sheffield City Hall on Wednesday January 30.