Cellist Ben maintains his Chichester tradition for the Festival

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Cellist Ben Rogerson, originally from Chichester, continues to honour the memory of his late grandmother with a concert in the city in aid of St Wilfrid’s Hospice.

Ben is reuniting his occasional Minerva Ensemble for a concert featuring soloist/director David Le Page for this year’s second Festival of Chichester. They will offer The Four Seasons by Astor Piazzolla and Antonio Vivaldi on Sunday, June 15 at 7pm in St John’s Chapel.

As Ben says: “Chichester is full of people who have a connection with St Wilfrid’s.” As he says, the work the hospice does is crucial. Ben’s St Wilfrid’s concert was for many years a feature of the now-defunct Chichester Festivities, and he is delighted to return, particularly with David, regarded by many as one of Europe’s finest violinists.

“He really is super talented. He is one of those guys that can just do anything. When they heard David was playing, everyone was wanting to take part. Loads of people are just dying to play with him.”

Guernsey-born and educated at the Menuhin School, David is the leader of the Orchestra of the Swan and has founded his own groups including the Le Page Ensemble, Subway Piranhas and most recently The Harborough Collective. David began playing the violin at the age of seven.

“I was encouraged to improvise by my father from the first moment I picked up the violin,” David said. “There was an immediate understanding of how the instrument worked and I clearly recall playing along to recordings of Grappelli, Bach, Brubeck, Bruch and Mendelssohn.

“There was no mystery to me. That came later. There were years when I forgot how important the freedom to improvise was and it was slightly frowned upon by some of my teachers in the classical world. It helps me write and puts me back in touch with my most natural way of playing and making music.”

Brought together by Ben, the Minerva Ensemble features 12 top-flight professional musicians from London’s chamber and orchestral scene who will join forces with David to present the music of the Nuevo Tango king Astor Piazzolla, alongside that of the Red Priest of Venice, Antonio Vivaldi. As Ben says, the ensemble is an occasional gathering. His full-time job is with the BBC Concert Orchestra.

“I have been there for about two years, and it is great fun. It’s hilarious really and very different from my job in Ireland. I was with the Irish Chamber Orchestra for about ten years, and we worked with all sorts of posh people.”

And he continues to work with ‘posh people’ with the BBC Concert Orchestra. But he has now also worked with Dame Edna, Gary Barlow and Kylie: “My second gig with them was with Kylie. I didn’t get to speak to her, but she was just amazing. She is super professional. In rehearsals, she just sat very conservatively while we did our stuff, and then when she wanted to work out something with her own band, she didn’t want to waste the orchestra’s time. And then when it came to the gig, she stopped being this middle-aged lady and became a sex kitten! She is an unbelievable performer. It is fantastic the way she works to the camera.”