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    • Bryan Benner, singer of the band "The Erlkings" visits Schubert's birthplace / Schubert Birthplace
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    For the Love of Schubert

    When Bryan Benner, a classically trained singer-songwriter, lived in Vienna’s Schubertviertel, he stumbled upon many historic signs about Franz Schubert. The young American wandered around, imagining how Schubert met friends, played the piano, and had fun. Soon it hit him: Franz Schubert had been a young musician, doing exactly what Bryan was trying to do – only 200 years earlier. Follow his inspiring story!

    •                     Bryan Benner and the band "The Erlkings" at music festival Schubertiade in Bregenzerwald region
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    •                     Bryan Benner and the band "The Erlkings" at music festival Schubertiade in Bregenzerwald region
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    •                     Bryan Benner and the band "The Erlkings" at music festival Schubertiade in Bregenzerwald region
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    Spompanadeln” is one of Bryan Benner’s favourite Austrian words. It hints at shenanigans or silliness--something he clearly enjoys. With a mischievous grin, the American-born musician shares an anecdote about his favourite musical genius: “In the mornings, when Franz Schubert was too tired to get out of bed and go to his piano, he would reach up to where his guitar hung above his bed and play and compose from under the sheets.”

    "‘Franzl,' as Bryan rather playfully calls Schubert, has been an extraordinary inspiration in his own musical path. Casually nicknaming one of the world’s classical music geniuses may come easily to him these days. But it has taken a spirited journey--with a few bumps along the way--for him to reach this kind of artistic confidence.

    “I immediately fell in love with Vienna. The city’s music legacy is inspirational and energizing for any musician, and it struck me very quickly: I am now living where it all happened—and still happens today.”

    Bryan Benner and the band "The Erlkings" at music festival Schubertiade in Bregenzerwald region
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    Bryan Benner, Founder and singer of The Erlkings

    Kissing, composing, and wine

    • It all began with a splash, so to speak, in 1988. From his birth in a bathtub in Orlando, Florida, to a childhood filled with Rachmaninov and the sweet sounds of guitar, Bryan has learned how to make an entrance. And how to play to his strengths. At a musical tea ceremony in the Costa Rican jungle, he discovered that he had a

    • talent for composing and performing his own songs. A few years later, his talents were tested in a different sort of ecosystem--high school. At Idyllwild Arts Academy in California, Bryan recalls, “I began writing songs, kissing girls, and graduated as an 18-year-old baritone, mediocre guitarist, and amateur shaman.”

    • His natural talent brought him a scholarship to the Royal Scottish Conservatory in Glasgow, Scotland. After graduation, he followed a woman to Bologna, Italy, where he “ended up enjoying a rather charmed life for a year, studying with a wonderful Italian tenor, teaching guitar in exchange for local wine and olive oil, and making a living as a street performer.”

    Bryan arrived in Vienna in 2011, with his guitar in his hand and a dream to further sharpen his musical skills. By that time, he was a passionate opera singer, songwriter, composer, and street musician. Earning a coveted spot at the Music and Arts University of Vienna, he deeply immersed himself in the city’s music culture. “I immediately fell in love with Vienna. The city’s music legacy is inspirational and energizing for any musician, and it struck me very quickly: I am now living where it all happened—and still happens today.”

    That legacy continues to flourish, greatly nurtured by Austria’s appreciation and substantial funding for the arts. “Music thrives when you have an intellectually curious public that is ready to be both entertained and challenged, which is exactly what I love about the Viennese audience.” With three operas, a Stehplatz (standing room) tradition, and countless classical music performances on any given day, Vienna makes the arts widely accessible. “For the first time, I was able to see the world’s biggest stars of classical music perform live every single night, and for a fraction of the ticket price.”

    An Artist’s Take on Vienna featuring The Erlkings

    A Travel Zine from Vienna

    Have you ever wondered what it is about Vienna, what makes it the world’s capital of music? More famous composers have lived here than in any other city. Why is that? What inspired them? In Vienna, it has been said, music is literally in the air. And today, young musicians still flock here from all over the world to hone their skills and find their stage.

    Enter: The Erlkings. We’ve asked this talented music ensemble what they like best about Vienna and what it feels like to live here.

    Enjoy a journey into ‘their’ Vienna
    Travel Zine from Vienna, featuring The Erlkings
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    An Artist’s Take on Vienna featuring The Erlkings

    A Travel Zine from Vienna

    Have you ever wondered what it is about Vienna, what makes it the world’s capital of music? More famous composers have lived here than in any other city. Why is that? What inspired them? In Vienna, it has been said, music is literally in the air. And today, young musicians still flock here from all over the world to hone their skills and find their stage.

    Enter: The Erlkings. We’ve asked this talented music ensemble what they like best about Vienna and what it feels like to live here.

    Enjoy a journey into ‘their’ Vienna
    Teaser Mobile_Travel Zine (from Vienna, feautering The Erlkings
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    "As a singer-songwriter, I was immediately connected to Schubert’s beautiful melodies and poems, but they also posed a bit of a challenge for me.”

    Bryan Benner and the band "The Erlkings" at music festival Schubertiade in Bregenzerwald region
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    Bryan Benner, Founder and singer of The Erlkings

    Traditionally, playing Schubert’s Kunstlied requires a grand piano, an instrument not easily squeezed into a student apartment. Each time he wanted to practice, Bryan had to find a pianist and space with a piano. 

    He also needed to learn German. Bryan began carrying around his little dictionary and listening to a lot of Schubert, Zupfgeigenhansel (a German folk duo), and Reinhard Mey (a German singer-songwriter). Naturally, there were a few bumps on the road to fluency. “I was once at a wedding and when the bride's mother asked me how I liked the ceremony, I replied in German, ‘Es war furchtbar (awful),’ because I thought that meant wonderful,” he recounts with a chuckle. For a while, Bryan worked hard to honour the traditions of this beautiful music. “I continued to passionately practice Schubert’s songs with a pianist and a piano, and I sang the songs in the original language of German.”

    For a while, Bryan worked hard to honour the traditions of this beautiful music. “I continued to passionately practice Schubert’s songs with a pianist and a piano, and I sang the songs in the original language of German.” 

    Schubert, coming full circle

    • At the time Bryan lived in the Schubertviertel, the neighbourhood in Vienna where Franz Schubert was born. Everywhere he turned, he’d see historic signs about Schubert. “I began to imagine how Schubert met his friends, played the piano, drank, and had a jolly time.” Then it hit him: Franz Schubert had been a young musician, doing precisely what Bryan was trying to do—only 200 years earlier. The revered became relatable. Schubert went from being this untouchable, historic icon to a collaborator and colleague. “He became ‘Franzl.’”

    • “This whole revelation freed me and gave me permission to be playful with Schubert’s Lieder.” Bryan began experimenting with the art songs on guitar, an instrument in which he is very skilled and always carries with him. “And no matter how good my German was, I always felt like I was speaking in someone else’s language.” So, he re-created Schubert’s Lieder in his owns words, in English, carefully considering what Schubert would have wanted to say.

    • Working on the first song he translated, “Der König in Thule,“ Bryan began to see just how much these art songs had in common with folk songs--that they could be performed with similar simplicity and directness. Playing the guitar, a regular folk instrument, and singing in English was a truly radical take on the traditional Kunstlied. “It felt to me like closing the circle and bringing the art songs back to their roots of folksongs.”

    Their new sound reached traditional art-song enthusiasts, who were able to enjoy the Erlkings’ songs as though hearing Schubert again for the first time. And as the quartet’s popularity grew, international Lieder festivals began to take notice and invited them to perform.

    For Bryan playing at the renowned Schubertiade Festival, set amidst Austria’s alpine peaks in the Vorarlberg region, was a personal highlight. Featuring the world’s best Lieder performers as well as newcomers, no other festival presents so many song recitals in such a short period of time. “For me, this was the most significant confirmation and proof of concept that such a discerning, international audience would like our new and radical take on Schubert. This was extremely gratifying and certainly the peak of my career.”

    “Together with our voices, guitar, cello, tuba, drums, and vibraphones we create a new sound.”

    Bryan Benner and the band "The Erlkings" at music festival Schubertiade in Bregenzerwald region
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    Bryan Benner, Founder and singer of The Erlkings
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    The Schubadour

    Today Bryan’s creative inspirations are lighting up the music scene around Vienna, and beyond. He has successfully founded a second ensemble, produced several albums, performed all over Europe, and organised a popular monthly The Late-Night Liederabend series in Vienna. “This evening event with a variety of music has always been wild and crazy, for sure. It all started in a small brothel that was turned into a music venue. My favourite memory is still my first show there with The Erlkings.”

    Nodding to his travels and intensive study of Schubert Lieder, Bryan playfully dubs himself a “Schubadour.” Though Schubert was grounded in piano, “a troubadour is someone who travels the world and plays music,” he explains with a smile. “It’s kind of a paradox, where I play the guitar, instead of the piano, and sing Schubert songs while travelling.”

    When not on the road Bryan continues to create and draw inspiration from his adopted home, Vienna. Wherever this incredibly dynamic musician steps on stage, we can be sure he’ll be performing with other talented musicians--and plenty of “Spompanadeln.”

    Explore Franz Schubert in Austria

    •                 Birthplace of Franz Schubert / Piano
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      Franz Schubert, Poet and Liederfürst

      If you had asked passers-by in the narrow alleys of Vienna in the mid-19th century about the importance of Franz Schubert, many of them would probably have replied with a fair-minded frown, ‘Franz who?’ Today, this son of Vienna is world-renowned and his Kunstlieder its own genre in the classical music world.

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    •                 Statue of Schubert, Stadtpark in Vienna
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      Travelling through Austria like Schubert

      Vienna was Schubert's main source of inspiration but ever so often, he left his native town to enjoy Austria’s vivid landscape and summer idyl.

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    •                 Vienna State Opera / Staatsoper Wien
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      The Sound of Schubert's Music in Vienna

      Listen to Schubert’s music at this hand-picked list of music venues - or where (we are positive) he would have enjoyed playing.

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    •                 Serviten Wien
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      Walking in Vienna’s Schubertviertel

      A walk off the beaten path takes you through the Schubertviertel, a neighbourhood that carries the composer’s name.

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