Launceston’s Gary Bennett has an enviable lifestyle.
He travels around the world, from Buenos Aires to Sydney to China. He is frequently applauded by overwhelmed audience members numbering in their tens of thousands, standing on their feet clapping and cheering.
He has a day-to-day relationship with one of the most beloved musical figures in the world.
Bennett is a tenor who travels with classical music megastar Andre Rieu, and has been on the road with the Dutch violinist and conductor for 14 years.
“It’s a huge buzz, that’s all I can say,” he said. “It’s very exciting to walk out on stage in front of that many people. There’s a lot of worse ways to earn your money.
At least once every year, Andre Rieu’s orchestra, the Johann Strauss Orchestra, performs an open-air concert in front of 12,000 people. Bennett can recall playing for 25,000 people in Toronto, and 35,000 in Melbourne. But he said, in all of his more than 200 concerts with Rieu, the thrill has never won off.
“It’s amazing, the number of people in the stadiums,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how often you’ve done it.
“If you can walk out on stage in front of thousands of people and not feel a little bit nervous, I don’t think you should be in the job.
“I’ve always said with work experiences like that, who need drugs?”
He said he couldn’t pick the most surreal moment in his storied career. However, there is one memory that immediately jumps to mind.
“I didn’t think we’d ever go to Romania,” he said.
“But we went there a few years ago and did some amazing open-air concerts in front of the second biggest building in the world, built by a mad dictator. That was pretty spectacular.
“You can never rule out anything with Andre.”
Despite doing this job for more than a decade, it’s not one he actually applied for.
Bennett started off as a freelance opera singer, who eventually joined a tenor group. Their CD was sent off to Andre Rieu in secret by their musical director – the first Bennett heard of it was when Rieu offered him a position with the orchestra.
It was a serendipitous moment that changed his life – and helped him be able to change the lives of other people, if only for one night.
“So many people have said that they’ve been sick and heard the music and its’ helped them get well again…and I’m very happy to hear it.
“We go on stage to make all these people happy and healthy, and what more can you ask?”
He also said he loves coming home, so if there are any promoters out there who want to organise a Tasmanian concert: get in touch.