We meet the musicians, discover their story and their passion for performance
Benedict Hoffnung has been with The Hanover Band since the very beginning, taking part in numerous performances and helping late founder Caroline Brown shape and hone her vision.
Part of that vision included a strong belief in passing on a love of classical music to future generations and it’s something that Ben holds in just as high esteem as Caroline did.
“I think it’s very important to promote what we do among the young because that’s how people learn and gain an appreciation for these things,” he says. “If children are exposed to classical music early on, they accept it as part of the fabric of daily life and they learn to enjoy it.
“Music in schools used to be very important, but it doesn’t receive the attention it used to which is why orchestra educational programmes, such as those run by The Hanover Band, are so vital.”
Ben, Professor of Baroque Timpani Studies at the Royal Academy of Music, has enjoyed a rich and illustrious career as timpanist, percussionist and latterly as a choral director and a conductor. He has performed all over the globe and worked extensively with world-famous orchestras.
As a founding member of The Hanover Band, he is very much enjoying being part of the concerts and celebrations taking place this year to mark Beethoven’s 250th anniversary and The Band’s own 40th anniversary.
He says: “I have very broad musical tastes. But I think it would be fair to say that Beethoven is one of my favourite composers. Bach and Strauss are also pretty important. These three men did a huge amount for music in their own ways.
“I joined The Hanover Band when Caroline first set it up and as a group, we have had a lot of fun over the years – it’s quite a band of brothers really.
“Caroline was hugely dedicated, and she was a hugely caring person – she cared, not just about the music but about the people too. It’s an honour to be able to continue her work.”
Ben developed an interest in drums from an early age and carries with him the legacy of his own father, Gerard Hoffnung, who was an artist and musical humourist.
He says: “I was only four when my father died but I have strong memories of when I was three and of him giving me a large bass drum that he rescued from a skip outside Boosey and Hawkes in Regent Street.
Gerard left behind a legacy of art and music, but it was my mother who encouraged me as I got older and I naturally gravitated towards drums and percussion.”
“Like many youngsters in the Sixties and Seventies, I was listening to the likes of Hendrix and Led Zeplin. But I remember hearing Beethoven’s 4th symphony one day and I just got sucked in. I started having serious percussion lessons and that’s what I have been doing my whole life since.
“I love it. Playing for me is something I can never get enough of.”
As well as performing around the world, Ben has created his own concert series in the picturesque Cotswold town Wootton-under-Edge. The Wootton Concert Series brings world-class choral, classical and chamber music to the Gloucestershire area.
“I’m still very much a timpanist,” he says. “But after a time, you start to develop interests in other areas, so I set up the Wootton Concert Series. We are now in our 11th year and I love bringing such music to an area where you wouldn’t normally expect to find symphony concerts. It’s hugely rewarding giving people the opportunity to hear such music and to add to the cultural fabric of the region.”
When not performing or teaching, Ben is a keen fly fisherman and spends his spare time fishing for salmon and trout. But his mind is often on his profession and he has absolutely no intention of retiring to fish full-time just yet.
“You never know everything – there’s no such thing as a perfect performance, one struggles and tries to improve with each one,” he adds. “You’re only as good as your last concert, you can never rest of your laurels and you have to strive for excellence every single time.”
The Beethoven 250 cycle continues at Clothworkers’ Hall on 27 April 2020 and runs from March-December 2020.
For full details of The Hanover Band’s 2020 celebrations see:
BEETHOVEN IN THE CITY
BEETHOVEN IN ARUNDEL
Follow the celebrations here: