Ben’s date with the Festival of Chichester

Chichester cellist Ben Rogerson returns to his home city to keep up a remarkable run of summer festival appearances.


Ben, who grew up in the city , first started his summer appearances while still with West Sussex Youth Orchestra.He has continued in various guises, mostly with the Minerva Ensemble who return once again for this year’s Festival of Chichester for a programme entitled Death and the Maiden: Transfigured Night, on Wednesday, June 24 at 7.30pm with David Le Page (violin) in St John’s Chapel, St John’s Street.

Ben looks back fondly on his days with the Youth Orchestra: “There are a phenomenal number of cellists that came out of it. I was there for two or three years. I learnt lots of repertoire for the first time and also how to enjoy music and also just playing collectively. In an orchestra, you are more than the sum of your parts if you see what I mean. Music is something that people make together. I don’t think it is something you do on your own. That’s the fun of it.”

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Ben became a cellist partly because of the grandfather he never met: “He was a big-time cellist in the mid part of the 1900s. He was principal cellist with Halle and then in 1946 he was invited to join the Philharmonia as principal cellist, and then he was invited to join the RPO.

“My granny, his wife, taught everybody the piano. I was about five when she arrived one day at the front door. I can remember it. She had a little cello in her hand. I can remember I answered the door. It was dark and it was raining, and in she came with this little cello. She had made up a little book, handwritten little tunes just on open strings with colours so I knew which to use. She played the tunes on the piano, and we spent the rest of the evening making music.”

Ben went on to become a chorister at Westminster Cathedral “where music was rammed down our throats – I ended up thinking it was the most ridiculous thing ever.”

Afterwards he went to school at Stonyhurst Jesuit College in Lancashire where it was the dearth of music which spurred him to take music seriously: “I found I really missed it!”

For the Festival of Chichester, Ben, the Ensemble and David offer an evening of epic chamber music for strings, in aid of St Wilfrid’s Hospice.

The programme will be Richard Strauss – Sextet from Capriccio, Opus 85; Franz Schubert – String Quartet in D Minor: Death and the Maiden, D 810; Arnold Schönberg – Verklärte Nacht, Opus 4. Tickets £18; seniors £18; students £10; children £10.

“Each of the pieces is about defining moments in people’s lives, in fact defining moments in ladies’ lives. The Strauss Capriccio comes from an opera in which a woman has to choose between two suitors, the poet and the musician, I think… a pretty-hard choice!

“Death and the Maiden speaks for itself, and the Schönberg, an early Schönberg, is really beautiful, at the height of romanticism, based on a poem in which the protagonist, a girl, is going for a walk with her new man, but she has to tell him she is carrying another man’s child. The piece is about how the conversation went. I think actually it went remarkably well!”

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