FLTR: Lyric tenor Brendan Keefe-Au, Ben Hansen, violinist Mathias Goebner with his son in his arms and the late Laurence Davis, pianist. (2014)
How it all began. Observations by members of the audience.
The exception to warm weather seeking, beach loving and sometimes harddrinking oriented families are the older residence of retired Dutch who have been coming to and living in Pattaya as a vacation spot and retirement beach resort for the past 40 years.
They are an interesting group of people and enjoy formal social gathering and classical music concerts. Since there is not much formal about life in Pattaya, even in the best hotel restaurants the dress code is "smart casual', which, means that you have to wear long pants, no T-shirts, and if you wear sandals, you must wear socks. So the Dutch have tended to create their own social affairs and these are open to everybody. I have attended and will be attending small classical concerts in "Ben's" the home of retired Dutch photojournalist and amateur pianist Ben Hansen who has turned his home's living room, dining room into a mini concert room. There is a stage, seating for 40, and an open bar. He organizes small concerts that last about two hours with one intermission. I attended some of them and it was delightful and they are very professional.
History of chamber concerts
“Listening to live music is something that used to be ubiquitous in our culture, before recorded music was widespread. Concerts were attended, balls were held and there was usually at least one person in each family who knew how to play an instrument”(Jenny Williams).
In the period of the Renaissance and the Baroque, most secular music was performed in a room (or chamber) of a nobleman’s home, and thus the expression"chamber music" arose. It was not until the time of Beethoven that halls were built specifically for public concerts.
At Ben’s concerts, the format is simple and strict. Dress code is smart casual. No shorts. No T-shirts. No sandals. The concerts start exactly at curtain time (8 pm) and there is no admittance during the concerts. They are about music pure and simple, so there are no speeches and no lectures to the audience.
Biography Ben Hansen, founder of Ben's
Born in 1938 at Amsterdam The Netherlands. After high school Ben started to work as a photo lab assistant at the General Dutch Press Agency ANP. After 18 months conscript military service he joined the agency again for the rest of his career, some 38 years. During that periode he served 26 years as a photo journalist and 12 years as a photo editor. During all these years Ben covered numerous national and international events like World Cups Football, four Olympic Games and Royal visits of the then reigning Queens Juliana and Beatrix of The Netherlands. In order to improve the speedy deliveries of news photo’s Ben developed and built a mobile darkroom. He was the first photo journalist in The Netherlands to work in this way. In this analog era he developed and transmitted his pictures in the back of his car right on the spot. This is now daily routine for all journalists of the news media.
Still Ben found time for his passion: playing the piano to entertain friends and above all, himself. By doing so he was able to improve his playing under his motto “you’re never too old to learn”. As a photographer Ben covered all different kinds of news. Among these items were also tv shows and theatre. He covered concerts of great jazz legends like Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Count Basie, Oscar Peterson and Dave Brubeck. One of the highlights was a performance of Marlene Dietrich at the Grand Gala du Disque in the famous Kurhaus in The Hague. The diva personally prohibited photography. Ben secretly sneaked in and made some shots before security staff could arrest him. He fled through a backdoor and the next day all Dutch newspapers published his "forbidden picture" of La Dietrich. A week later Marlene, back in Paris, personally ordered 400 copies by phone. Together with the prints the agency sent her a bill which she - probably out of revenge - never paid. Nevertheless Ben’s interest for theatre was triggered. In 1983 he joined a renowned amateur theatre company “Toetssteen” in Amsterdam. Mainly as its volunteer photographer. Joining this group of talented actors and playwrights, inspired him to get involved in acting, producing and building stage sets. In 1994 he transformed a gymnasium of an abandoned school in a small 50 seats theatre. In 2003 Ben left The Netherlands for Thailand, creating a new venue for his artistic and musical events.
Hoe het allemaal begon…
In 2004 transformeerde amateur pianist Ben Hansen zijn ruime huiskamer in een klein theater.
In Ben’s worden kleine concerten gegeven. Meestal door muziekstudenten en professionele musici.
Ben begon met een groep toeschouwers van 12. Vanwege het succes breidde hij de capaciteit langzaam uit tot maximaal 40 stoelen. Ben besefte toen dat er in Pattaya een flinke behoefte bestond naar dit soort culturele evenementen.
Luisteren naar “levende muziek” was heel gewoon voordat de wasrol, vinyl en andere geluidsdragers werden uitgevonden. Men bezocht concerten, nam deel aan grote dansavonden en in elke familie was wel iemand te vinden die een instrument bespeelde. In de Renaissance- en Barocqueperiode werden muziekuitvoeringen gehouden in het huis van een edelman of een adelijke familie. Pas in Beethoven’s tijd werd begonnen aan de bouw van concertzalen voor publiek.
Ben’s concerten zijn simpel en strict van opzet. Kledingvoorschrift is “smart casual”. In gewoon Nederlands: netjes gekleed, geen sandalen, geen korte broek, geen hemdjes. Het concert begint stipt op de aangegeven tijd. Laatkomers worden niet toegelaten. Het concert gaat puur om de inhoud. Er zijn geen toespraken of colleges omtrent het gebodene. Ben’s accepteert principieel geen sponsoring.
Ben’s is een prive initiatief voortgekomen uit liefde voor muziek en musiceren. Het is een non-profit eenmans organisatie dat naast de reeds genoemde doelen ook een podium biedt voor jonge muziekstudenten en amateurs om ervaring op te doen bij optredens voor een aandachtig en dankbaar publiek.
403/73 Jomtien Beach Road
Ben's Theater is a drop off place of Grab Car/Taxi. Just type: Bens Theatre
BEN HANSEN founder of Ben’s
Audience members will come up to you with their glasses of wine after the concert to tell you how much they loved it, and then proceed to discuss, the great lieder singers and whose interpretations of Die Schöne Müllerin speaks to whom most. A real aficionado's experience! This is why performing at Ben's Theater is always a uniquely social experience for me.