Benedict Westenra

composer

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About me

Benedict Westenra

About me

Hi, I’m Benedict Westenra. I write words and music, and teach.

I have 2 plays in development. The first is a musical, which was developed by Glass Half Full Productions, and which I was invited by Stephen Sondheim to play to him in his home in New York. The second is a straight play that was dramaturged by Leo Butler.

I’ve written quite a lot of piano music, and have recently been working on a commission for a group exhibition in Spiridonov House in Moscow, for which I was collaborating with the LED designer Moritz Waldemeyer.

I also teach music like a language through my blog musophone, and have over 16,000 students enrolled in my courses.

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a play about a girl

a play about a girl

a play about a girl

A kind of Muslim Annie Hall

“That’s the thing about reality, it’s not constrained by the bounds of plausibility.”

ABOUT

a play about a girl is based on real-life experiences, and although the tone is frequently comedic I had two serious motivations in writing it: one was to write a great part for a young Bangladeshi actress – Bangladeshis are underrepresented on stage, even though Bangladeshi is the second most widely-spoken language in London – and the other was to portray the adult repercussions of childhood sexual abuse.

I wrote a rapid first draft in early 2018, and the play’s since been dramaturged by Tom Attenborough, Adam Lenson, and most recently Leo Butler, who was the Playwriting Tutor at the Royal Court from 2005 to 2014. It hasn’t been through the usual process of reading, rehearsal, and production, due to the current shutdown of Theatreland, so this can’t be considered a final draft, but I still think it’s the best thing I’ve done.

DOWNLOAD THE SCRIPT

Poster design by Rebecca Pitt.

a play about a girl
No life worthy of the name consists of anything more than the continual series of struggles to develop one’s character through the medium of whatever one has chosen as a career.
Juan Belmonte
Spiridonov House

Spiridonov House

Recently I’ve been working on a composing and performing commission for a group exhibition in Spiridonov House in Moscow, curated by Elena Kuprina-Lyakovich, a seminal figure in the Moscow Conceptual School.

I’m collaborating with LED designer Moritz Waldemeyer, who’s created light pieces for will.i.am and Versace, to fill the main ballroom with hundreds of his LED candles, which will be centrally controlled to create a music-responsive sculpture.

The exhibition’s been postponed, but is due to feature Veronica Smirnoff, Ivgenia Naiman, and DUSKMANN, and is sponsored by the Cavalli Foundation and the Russian Ministry of Culture.

Midnight Oil
Spiridonov House
Composing

Composing

2 birthday pieces. The 1st was for my sister’s 40th – the name is a tribute to the geeky titles beboppers would give their compositions in the ’40’s. It was recorded and then played back on a Yamaha Disklavier. The 2nd is a Russian lullaby I wrote for one of my students to play, recorded on her piano.

2 piano arrangements of pieces from an early draft of my musical: the 1st was a horror overture for ‘cello and piano, the 2nd was a song for voice, flute, ‘cello, and piano.

Another birthday piece and another arrangement. The melody of the first is inspired by Schubert’s songs, but the accompaniment drags it into the 20th Century. The 2nd is modelled on Chopin’s Polonaises.

Composing
Czech Yourself

Czech Yourself

Czech Yourself

A serious political drama about spinning too many plates when you probably shouldn’t be spinning plates in the first place because they’re not your plates and I’m not inviting you to dinner again oh God look what you’ve done to my carpet

Prague, 1848. Jaroslav seems to have accidentally started a revolution. His girlfriend isn’t very happy about this. They argue about it for 90 minutes through the medium of song in a way that’s not anything like as bad as that sounds. (There’s also a subplot involving the emperor, a marriage proposal, a dead body, a psychotic tailor’s assistant who’s really good at his job, a gay lawyer who isn’t, but not because he’s gay, that would be wrong, some comedy anti-Semitism because that’s what people did in those days, and a suicidal aristocrat who we all like to laugh at because honestly what’s funnier than other people’s pain.)

DOWNLOAD THE SCRIPT

ABOUT

CZECH YOURSELF has been through two workshops, directed by Adam Lenson and Tom Attenborough, and was developed with funding from the Arts Council, Glass Half Full Productions, and private sources. Stephen Sondheim heard some of the songs from the show and invited me to his home in New York to talk about it.

I was planning on pursuing a production this year but it’s currently illegal to hold a gathering of more than 2 people and the play has a cast of 6, so I probably should have thought that through better.

Poster design by Steph Pyne. Demo by Michael Kirk. More to come soon!

Czech Yourself
The best piano teacher in London.
It even says so on his website.
Lenny Henry
Teaching

Teaching

I spent a decade developing innovative techniques to teach music like a language, and am now in the process of releasing my techniques to the wider public. Below are links to some of my courses.

You can also find tons of free classical and popular scores on my music education blog, musophone, as well as articles on subjects such as how to get a good piano teacher, which piano / keyboard to buy, the myth of musical talent, and practice time vs. playing time.

Beginner Piano

Beginner Piano

A course for complete beginners – no prior experience required. You don’t even need to know the note names!

“Ok – so who would like to start playing the piano without the hours of frustration learning music theory? I’m one. That’s exactly what Benedict does in this course. … I’m amazed at what I’ve been able to learn and play.”
Greg R

“This course walks you through playing simple songs, but they actually sound like the real thing which gave me a sense of accomplishment and encouraged me to keep playing. I highly recommend this course!”
Helenmary Cody

Read Music FAST!

Learn to see a note on a piano score and play it on the keyboard straight away. My best-selling course.

“WOW! The instructor’s method and exercises meant I was nailing five octaves of note reading in just a day! … Excellent production quality, excellent graphics, clear explanation. … I’d give it ten stars if I could.”
Mark S A Smith

“After the course, I can assure you that you will not be seeing a music sheet the same way again.”
Kathleen Rosario

Read Music FAST!
Read Music FAST!

Read Music FAST! Part 2

Learn how to read notes in context and decipher key signatures.

“His unique method of understanding scales is, by itself, worth the price of the course. Check it out. Definitely one of the best online classes I’ve taken.”
Lynn Kear

“If only every teacher/instructor could make learning this easy for their students.”
Nana Okyere

Note: this is a private course, so you’ll need to enter the password “Tigris” (the name of my cat) to get access.

Piano Chords

Learn to read chord symbols in a visual and intuitive way using real music.

“After buying loads of books on piano chords nothing has come close to this excellent course … it has to be the best on Udemy”
Michael Fallon

“Even if you already know your scales and chords, this course brings you through the variations so that you can do more than just play a triad each and every time.”
Richard

Piano Chords
Piano Chords

Advanced Piano Chords 1

Learn how to interpret 6th, 9th, and 13th chords, as well as augmented and diminished triads, on the circle of 5ths.

“He’s just a great teacher! Meticulous, professional, knowledgeable, thorough, and enjoyable; plus loads of content. Much more than your money’s worth!”
Altamese Akiva

“The instructor teaches a lot of advanced chords in such a way that then sticks in your mind.”
Bruno Sade

Note: this is a private course, so you’ll need to enter the password “Tigris” (the name of my cat) to get access.

Teaching
blog

Blog

I have a blog, where I write occasional articles about art, music, writing, theatre, fashion, and travel, etc.

blog

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