PROFESSIONAL conductors certainly clock up the miles both in terms of distance travelled and the musical repertoire covered.
Benjamin Ellin, conductor of Slaithwaite Philharmonic gets the train up from Euston to lead rehearsals in Slaithwaite Civic Hall.
The orchestra is on stage in Huddersfield Town Hall next weekend with a massively challenging programme which includes two favourite pieces by Beethoven and Mozart before the musicians play Mahler’s epic Fifth Symphony.
It has been a huge journey for the orchestra and for their young conductor whose talent is being increasingly recognised.
His passport has collected stamps in Russia, Japan and Europe in the last few months. China is the next big travel slot.
Ben takes it all in his stride. It is after all, the life of a conductor and composer whose services are in increasing demand.
Ask how he spent Christmas and you’ll find that he was working in Norfolk almost until the big day.
Ben conducts the Thursford Christmas Spectacular, one of the country’s biggest festive shows.
It has a cast of over 100 and its musical range runs from classical to jazz and gospel.
And this Christmas, there was a bonus for the Thursford team.
Prince William and his fiancee Kate Middleton were the guests at a gala charity night which raised money towards the building of a specialist cancer unit for young people at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge
“We knew that we were getting a member of the royal family, but originally weren’t sure just who.
“We were only able to tell the cast 15 minutes before the show opened that we would have both Prince William and Kate in the audience,” he said.
“Kate is very beautiful. I think she was bit nervous but then it was probably her first involvement in something like that and who wouldn’t be?
“Prince William is very personable and very nice.
“They both went down the line after the performance and spoke to everyone involved in the show.
“This is my second year as musical director for the show. It has been a big job. There are 86 performances and rehearsals began in October.
“It’s a massive opportunity for me to work on a show like this.”
And opportunities seem to keep coming for this likeable conductor who combines his orchestral and operatic conducting career with that of a composer.
He’s off to China in April as part of a business and cultural delegation.
“I’m doing some workshops in China and I’m doing some writing for that visit as well.
“It is an opportunity to see how we can assimilate with another culture and what we can learn not just about another culture but about our own world.
“Everything is built on the idea of mutual respect. That goes from the way that rehearsals are run to the fact that there is no litter in the streets.”
That respect is evident too in the way he talks about the musicians that he works with as conductor of Slaithwaite Philharmonic Orchestra.
He agrees that the programme for next Saturday’s concert is massive in terms of complexity and emotional power, but then he clearly shares the orchestra’s pleasure at being challenged.
“It is 100 years since the death of Mahler so there could not be a better year in which to tackle this work.” said Ben.
“The orchestra not only have to play every note but put 100% of themselves into the piece.
“With Mahler you have to listen to what he is saying. He takes you through the spectrum of human emotions in a most desperately extreme way.
“The thing with Mahler is that he is fascinated with the idea of the universal whole and through that speaks of the existence of earth and an awareness of the ephemeral nature of that in terms of eternity and space.
“Mahler’s Fifth Symphony is 110 years old but its doesn’t feel like it’s over a hundred years old.
“It has probably got the biggest element of joy in it that you could imagine but with Mahler, even when his music is at its most optimistic and happy and it’s a complete adrenalin rush, it has still got that tear in the eye moment.
“It’s been a massive journey for the orchestra but I am sure they will do it.
“This is a piece that some of the players had wanted to do for years. It should be quite an experience for them.
“I think the programmes this season have been pretty monumental”.
Next Saturday’s concert (January 22) includes Mozart’s Horn Concerto No 3 where the soloist will be one of the orchestra’s own musicians, Stephen Wild who has been SPO’s principal horn player for the last seven years.
Stephen works at ArtForms, the music and arts service for Leeds, as Assistant Head of Music.
His other musical loves are folk music and the accordion which he plays with ceilidh bands and teaches and coaches young players.
The concert begins at 7.30pm, tickets from Kirklees information offices.