We caught up vocalist and composer Hanna Benn ahead of her performance in the upcoming Perth Festival show Procession. It comes to FAC on Sat 2 Mar. Read on to find out more about this celestial contemporary music piece and the inspiration behind it.
Hi Hanna, are you able to tell us a bit about yourself and your musical background?
Choral music is my first love. I grew up singing in a cathedral girls’ choir, which was a family tradition encouraged by my father. Later I went to school to further my studies in voice and was persuaded by a professor to move to the composition department. At the time I hadn’t considered writing my own music, perhaps because of the lack of female representation, but I will be forever thankful to that professor. Then I joined a couple of pop bands, things got weird and the rest is noise.
Your work spans across genres, from pop through to classical and gospel. What musician/artist would you say is your biggest influence?
Hard question! I have many influences but I think it’s the culmination of musical experiences that has influenced me the most, so I’ll choose a memory. Somewhere in early childhood, perhaps first grade I remember a teacher playing The Carnival of Animals’ The Swan to get us to sleep during nap time. I remember thinking how cool of an exercise it was assigning sound to creatures and how sound can evoke the imagination. So, yes, maybe the biggest influence was that teacher whose name I don’t remember? Maybe it was the lyrical cello lines in Saint-Saëns’s The Swan? Or maybe it’s Stevie Wonder?
What is Procession and how did you develop the piece?
The piece developed organically and almost incidentally, as an exercise between Deantoni & myself. I’d send him choral sketches and he would sample and rearrange it to create something new. I’d then take that idea further and so on. We weren’t intending to write a “piece”, rather we were just having a light musical conversation. It was later that we had collected these ideas to create a musical narrative Procession. A song cycle that enters a ceremony and never exits. A continual process of sounds.
You have collaborated with Deantoni Parks on Procession. He seems to come from quite a different musical background. What has it been like working with him? What does he bring to the performance?
Although we have different backgrounds our influences overlap quite a bit. It’s almost as if meeting someone from a different planet with an entirely different skill set, yet they still shares the same ideals. The collaboration is fluid. Deantoni is a master of his craft with otherworldly precision and expression, all the while doing it with grace. I’d say he brings the fire to this piece.
Procession premiered last year, will you be adapting the show for an Australian audience?
Yes, the Australian premiere is a larger work both in ensemble and in length. It’s all very new and exciting!
What can audiences expect from the performance?
An intimate, immersive experience. A lush soundscape. A hybrid of electronic and acoustic.
Procession is part of Soft Soft Loud. To find out more and purchase tickets, click here.