Maestro Julien Benichou has always had a deep, assertive connection with music, ever since his early days practicing in a children’s chorus in his native France. From there, he dabbled with musical performance until he took a keen partiality to conducting and composing in his early teens.
To this day, Benichou has traveled the world, spreading the joy of his musical passion, and on Feb. 9, Benichou will grace Mariner’s Bethel Church in Ocean View, conducting the Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra (MSO) in a special program just in time for the Valentine’s Day holiday.
The MSO’s “Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart” concert unites some of the region’s most prolific musicians, and as Benichou stated, it definitely lifts spirits and inspires.
“There is so much that you can learn from each other through music,” he said. “You really get to develop a collegial partnership with the musicians, collaborating on every performance.”
Maestro Benichou has been the lead conductor for MSO since joining them in 2005. Prior to his move to the United States in 1995, he founded and directed France’s Montpellier Young Orchestral Ensemble and also served as music director for several choral groups.
After completing studies in Marseille, St Maur and Rueil-Malmaison in France, where he turned his focus to counterpoint, harmony and music theory, Benichou pursued his dream at Northwest University, Yale and the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, where he worked under the likes of conductors such as Gustav Meier. In addition to directing MSO, he also currently holds the position of music director of the Chesapeake Youth Symphony Orchestra.
“[MSO] was my first professional orchestra director position,” he explained. “I was a little nervous at first, but it was also very exciting.”
Though his nerves sometime come back just before every performance, he admitted he will never tire of the sensation they bring.
“It comes right before I direct any performance,” he said, “but it doesn’t last long anymore. I want the audience to enjoy it. You learn to handle the stress, though.”
The importance of appreciation isn’t limited to Benichou’s relationship with the audience.
“Before we put on a performance,” he said, “I’ll talk to the musicians. I ask them, ‘What do you think of this and that?’ I always try to bring their ideas to performance. It’s very interesting to find out about, not just them, but yourself. Music brings us together with each other and as an individual.”
The Feb. 9 performance, an all-string concert, is one of 18 for MSO this year and will include 12 talented MSO musicians and four distinctive soloists: Joseph Hascho, harpsichord; Nicholas Currie, violin and concertmaster; Michael Strauss, principal violinist; and Adam Gonzalez, principal violinist. Including pieces primarily from the Baroque period, the concert will emphasize works by Bach, Pachelbel, Vivaldi and Mozart for an inspiring show.
“All of the works come together for a strong emotional range,” said Benichou. “There’s just about every kind featured. The music is not from romantic period, per se, but the variety of mood is very appropriate, and I think it really shows how the strings emote feeling.”
The February show is one of the newest additions to the MSO’s annual repertoire.
“I’m very excited to be directing a February concert,” said Benichou. “Everyone at MSO has done a great job of bringing the organization forward. I’ve had the pleasure to work with some terrific people, and, hopefully, we’ll be working with others soon from Delaware and Maryland’s Eastern Shore.”
MSO Board Member Sandra K. Lehman has enjoyed Benichou’s presence with the orchestra.
“He’s absolutely wonderful,” she said. “The audience loves him. He discusses what will happen and really gets people involved. He’s been a great addition to our group. Benichou is a very knowledgeable and bright person, and I’m excited to work with him and such a great group of professional musicians.”
The Mid-Atlantic Symphony’s “Heart Strings” concert will be held at the Mariner’s United Bethel Church, Route 26 and Central Avenue, Ocean View, on Saturday, Feb. 9, at 7:30 p.m. A preconcert presentation will take place at 6:30 p.m.
Tickets for the concert cost $24 for adults or $10 for students. For more information or ticket availability, call 1-888-846-8600. Additional tickets will be available at the door, as well.