|Wish you were here? So do I.|
Hello, Possums! I have some good festival trips this summer, but they will have to be seriously incredible in order to match this time last year, when we headed off to Australia for one of the best chamber music festivals in the world. You might have followed my posts here, as I was being a sort of reporter-in-residence for them, and I've been trying to keep up with the eclectic, exploratory, delicious goings-on ever since. As it's hardly stopped raining in London this summer, Townsville in winter is an altogether brighter prospect. If you're going - lucky you!
Here's a taste of what you can expect when the action kicks off at the end of this week.
Artistic director Kathryn Stott has assembled a tremendous line-up of colleagues, ranging from fellow pianists like Charles Owen and Timothy Young to harpist Ruth Wall (interviewed here the other week), Chinese pipa player Wu Man and the amazing Roberto Carrillo-Garcia who plays the double bass, the classical guitar AND the viola da gamba. The doughty Goldner String Quartet rubs shoulders with fellow Australians of Arcadia Winds, the Ensemble Liaison and several splendid actors; musicians from America, Moldova, the Netherlands, Germany, Canada and the Czech Republic are all due to swan in to Townsville; as for the repertoire, you'd be hard pressed to find a programme quite as international as this anywhere else.
|Kathy Stott in Townsville|
And what other festival would both begin and end with the music of Eric Coates? Mezzo-soprano Lotte Betts-Dean begins the opening night festivities with his Bird Songs at Eventide and the concert continues, in true AFCM fashion, with as many artists as possible throwing their hat into the performance ring in music by Graham Fitkin, Bright Sheng, Françaix and Fauré. Over the course of the festival the repertoire ranges from the 13th century to the present day, notably with world premieres of works by the composer-in-residence, Connor D'Netto from Brisbane. 'Baroque around the Clock' crams 400 years into one big evening. Some startling multi-piano arrangements are likely to give Kathy, Charles, Tim and Aura Go a run for their money and the final evening extravaganza closes with a special arrangement by Roderick Williams of Coates's 'Sleepy Lagoon' for all the festival artists to join in.
|Concert on Orpheus Island last year|
Events take place from morning til night, most days opening with Kathy Stott's Concert Conversations in which she interviews a group of musicians, each of whom then performs too. There will be chances to hear masterclasses with young people from the festival's Winterschool, which is directed again by the inspirational Pavel Fischer; an amazing day out on Orpheus Island with a special outdoor concert on the beach (last year we saw whales at dusk on the way back); Kathy choosing her Magnetic Island Discs in a special "day off" on the closest tropical island to Townsville; and there are late-night concerts in the bar...
You can find the entire programme here. And now, after combing through it all, I'm green with envy. (Actually I'm on my way to Italy - more of which very soon...).