The Free-Reed Journal
Articles and Essays Featuring Classical Free-Reed Instruments and Performers

Bart Beninco
Accompanies Pavarotti

by Kristofer Nelson

There were over 12,000 people packed into Sacramento's ARCO Arena on the evening of October 5th, 2001. The din of the crowd hushed as the house lights lowered and the spotlights focused on the expansive stage. On the stage was a sixty-five member symphony orchestra, a conductor and Luciano Pavarotti.

The spotlights illuminated all of them in grand fashion. They also shown brightly on the heart of the Accordion Club of the Redwoods as founding member, Bart Beninco, sat in the front row, center seat of the orchestra. "This has been a lifelong dream of mine," Said Bart. "I've always wanted to perform as part of a symphony orchestra. I never would have dreamed that I would also accompany Luciano Pavarotti! At first I was concerned how the other musicians were going to react to having an accordion in the orchestra. This is very uncommon. But I found out I didn't have to worry, because while I was comparing tunings with the oboe player, the bassoon player asked if I was the accordion player. When I said that I was, he was delighted and stated that he had an accordion at home and loved to play it. This gave me the courage to take the instrument out of it's case. At this point one of the cello players saw it and got a big smile on his face. He said, "In my country, everybody loves the accordion."

The orchestra had one day of four hours sessions to perfect the music prior to the concert on Friday night. The first morning session was with soprano, Cynthia Lawrence. The afternoon session was spent working with Luciano Pavarotti.

"He [Pavarotti] is extremely serious about how everything is to be presented," Bart said. "It is important that all the musicians in the orchestra understand the mood and story of the music. He had a magnificent way of getting the musicians to understand what he wanted. For example, I had a solo that was the introduction to one of the pieces. He was standing about five feet directly in front of me, it appeared that he was almost in a trance, he closed his eyes and almost inaudibly sang the part. I played it back to him on my instrument while he conducted using his hands and facial expressions. When I finished, he raised his right thumb and said good, and turned to another musician for yet another part that was vital to the piece."

Having been a member of the Molinaro Accordion Orchestra in his youth, Bart performed at Town Hall and Carnegie Hall in New York, Orchestra Hall in Chicago and the International Accordion Festival at Hunter College. Even with all this training under his belt, Bart exclaims that it wasn't easy. "This was the most challenging and intense preparation I believe I have ever been through. Right now I'm really tired. But, it's a good kind of tired. You know you've really accomplished something when you're spent like this."

Bart's efforts and passion paid off because the evening's performance was a magnificent event. Pavarotti performed song after song weaving a tapestry of classical arias, popular songs, and Italian folk ballads. All of these Pavarotti presented with the effortless skill of a master musician.

"It was an incredible sound." Said Bart, "The concert went very well and I could hear the accordion over the PA system in the arena. I was surrounded by incredible music and incredible musicians. It was an unforgettable night!"

This article reprinted with permission from The San Francisco Bay Area Accordion Club

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