MORGANTOWN — Dressed in a dapper herringbone tweed jacket and brown silk tie, James Benner looked every bit the part of a man on his way to the opera.

And that’s because he was.

The WVU professor emeritus, who spent much of his life as a freelance coach and piano accompanist to opera performers and other musicians around the world, was the guest of honor at a private performance Oct. 27 at Christian Missionary Alliance Church in Morgantown.

The concert was made possible by Amedisys Hospice and Dream Foundation, an organization that “serves terminally ill adults and their families by providing end-of-life Dreams that offer inspiration, comfort and closure.”

A lifelong lover and supporter of the opera, Benner spent the moments before the performance recalling times with his late wife, the famous soprano Frances Yeend, who passed away in 2008.

The two worked and toured together extensively during their 54-year marriage, across the country and abroad. Later, they were to both join the faculty at WVU, where Benner developed classes, performed seminars, directed WVU Opera Theatre productions and more. During that time, he also served as conductor for engagements with the Pittsburgh Opera Theatre — a recollection he was happy to share with Friday’s visiting Pittsburgh Opera performers, soprano Shannon Jennings, baritone Ben Taylor and pianist Mark Trawka.

And while Benner said he was “thrilled” to be attending Friday’s performance, he couldn’t help but make note of his vast knowledge of the art form, gleaned from years of experience.

“Well, I don’t expect to be surprised!,” he said laughing, when being told some of the arrangements he could expect to hear from the performers.

Courtney Callen, Amedisys hospice liaison, said the hospice and the Dream Foundation were honored to make Friday’s concert happen for Benner.

“Since Mr. Benner cannot go to the opera,” she said, “we wanted to bring the opera to him.”

Also attending the show were several of Benner’s friends from The Village at Heritage Point, where he used to live.

In addition to the concert, Benner was presented with a celebration basket and a special coin, to honor his time in the U.S. Navy. A reception was set to follow the performance.