Queenstowners will get a rare chance to appreciate the talent of one of New Zealand’s most celebrated expat classical musicians.
Wellington-born violinist Ben Baker, plucked at just eight years old for a scholarship at the Yehudi Menuhin School in Surrey, England, is playing a chamber concert with talented Englishmen, cellist Jonathan Bloxham and pianist Sam Armstrong, at the Queenstown Memorial Centre tomorrow.
As the Egmont Ensemble they’re touring the country under the auspices of the Royal Over-Seas League’s NZ branch.
The league’s allowing the proceeds of every concert to go to a local charity – tomorrow’s beneficiary is the Wakatipu Cancer Society.
The Royal Over-Seas League has been bringing prize winners from its annual music competition in England to NZ for 10 years but this is the first time Queenstown’s been included on the programme.
It’s also the first time a Kiwi’s been part of the tour.
It’s fitting the trio is coming to Queenstown because it was here that Baker won the development prize in the Michael Hill International Violin Competition in 2013.
That prize is just one of many accolades the 25-year-old has picked up in a glittering career already.
In 2013 he also won first prize and audience prize at the Windsor Festival International Violin Competition in England.
He’s given recitals and appeared as a soloist with orchestras throughout Europe and Britain.
Royal Over-Seas League NZ director Lyn Milne is thrilled that Baker’s joining the 2015 tour.
“I’ve never heard a bad word said about Ben – it’s just the absolute opposite.
“Everyone adores him – they just say he’s such a considerate, kind, obviously clever person.
“His personality is just exceptional.”
Baker’s also looking forward to introducing his fellow musicians to Queenstown: “It’s going to hit them like a slap on the face.
“I’d love to take them jetboating.
“Bungy jumping has been mentioned but for the sanity of [the organisers] we’re going to have to keep extreme sports to a minimum.”
The Queenstown concert includes Beethoven variations for cello and piano, a Strauss violin sonata, a Brahms piano trio and a piano trio by NZ composer Gareth Farr, Forbidden Colours, which Baker commissioned for this tour.
After tomorrow’s concert, the audience is invited to meet the musicians and enjoy nibbles and a glass of wine put on by the Cancer Society.
Egmont Ensemble, Queenstown Memorial Centre, tomorrow 7.30pm. Tickets $30 adults, $10 students, from i-SITE Queenstown Visitor Information Centre, Events Centre, Cancer Society’s CanShop at Remarkables Park, Arrowtown’s Lakes District Museum and eventfinda.co.nz