Owned and operated by one of the longest-running chamber music ensembles, the Southern Cross Soloists, the Bangalow Music Festival is now in its 18th year. Tania Frazer, the artistic director, spoke with The Echo ahead of their event this weekend.
I’d love it if you could tell me about some of the highlights for this year’s Bangalow Music Festival.
This year’s program is truly exciting. Each year we try to build on the success of the last program. This year we are exploring the magical ability of music to communicate and paint a picture without the use of words. Our theme is Conversations through Music and we will explore this through this year’s festival program, which includes having the premiere of a new work by Australian composer Joe Chindamo, Sanctuary for solo oboe and clarinet with strings. Another highlight will be Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, which is a virtuoso showpiece featuring our SXS piano soloist Alex Raineri. We have a stellar lineup of guest artists including classical guitarist Karin Schaupp, the amazing Orava Quartet, and last year’s favourite violin soloist Amalia Hall with the NZ Chamber Soloists. The final concert Scheherazade will also be a real treat for the audience – we are all looking forward to performing under the masterful baton of Christopher Dragon.
How long has the festival been going? What is its history?
The festival has a very long history and 2019 is our 18th year. The festival was started in 2002 by my husband David and Southern Cross Soloists, who have owned, operated, managed, and presented the festival these last 18 years. We are so humbled by the amazing success of the festival and it is the highlight of our program every year. Over 18 years we have been supported by many sponsors and local businesses and we love coming back each year to work with the community on making each festival better than the last. The A&I Hall, like Southern Cross Soloists, has also gone through some changes over these 18 years, and we’re still working together, better than ever. It’s been a great partnership and we look forward to a long future. Next year will be particularly exciting as SXS will celebrate our 25th anniversary as one of Australia’s leading chamber music ensembles in 2020.
What venues do you use?
Our schools concert on the Friday morning of the festival, the Festival Prelude on the Thursday evening, and the other nine concerts listed in the program are performed in the beautiful A&I Hall at Bangalow. Everyone loves this venue. It’s a warm and welcoming place for us to perform and every seat in the house is a good one! Our second pre-festival event is the Coffee Concert – an intimate and engaging chamber music event held at the wonderful Zentveld’s Coffee Plantation and Roastery at Newrybar. Owners John and Rebecca Zentveld have been supporters of the festival from the very beginning and we couldn’t do without them – and their fabulous coffee!
How have you seen the festival grow and evolve over time?
The Bangalow Music Festival has grown in popularity and support year on year and we’ve been able to present the most amazing national and international artists on the A&I Hall stage – some of them making their Australian debut and going on to even greater success. That makes me and the company very proud and we feel very privileged to be the custodians of this great legacy. We also have the people of Bangalow and the Northern Rivers to thank for their continued support.
Who are you audience? Where do they come from?
Our audiences come from far and wide – many from interstate Victoria and many from intrastate NSW. We, of course, enjoy a lot of support from our base in Brisbane but also love to welcome people from the Gold and Sunshine Coasts, far North Queensland, and overseas in NZ. Our patrons from Bangalow and the Northern Rivers region come to see us year after year – many bringing new friends and supporters with them. We love that and want even more locals to enjoy the festival. We would also encourage our Bangalow audiences to come up to Brisbane to hear us at one of our concerts during the year at the QPAC Concert Hall. It’s a different experience from the A&I Hall but, we promise, equally enjoyable.
What are the challenges for an artistic director in putting together a program like this?
Where do I start? As mentioned before, we try to build on the success of the program year on year, but it’s probably about finding the right balance between artists, repertoire, and audience tastes. It’s important to have a 360-degree awareness when curating a program; the audience are a huge part of the concert, and this year’s theme is about the musicians communicating with the audience – as the composers had intended when they wrote their masterpieces. We want to showcase the incredible virtuosity of our incredible top-drawer artists performing some favourites but also pieces that are challenging and bring something different to the festival each year. This year’s theme, for example, is Conversations Through Chamber Music and the program highlights the special connection not just between the musicians themselves as they listen, react, adjust, and communicate with each other through performances, but also the connection from musician to audience, where music magically tells a story and begins a conversation. The other challenge is which artists to program each year. We enjoy welcoming back some wonderful artists who have performed at Bangalow previous years (Amalia Hall, Orava Quartet) and then also ensure we take the opportunity to introduce new talent, particularly young and emerging artists, to our loyal audiences.
What should we expect for this year’s Bangalow Music Festival?
World-class chamber music! And a couple of other great initiatives are part of the program this year. The Australian Decorative and Fine Arts Society (Byron branch) have come on board and sponsored a new award – The ADFAS Byron Young Musician Award. This year’s recipient, flautist Jemima Drews, will perform over the weekend and features in the inaugural Young Artists Concert on Thursday evening, one of our pre-festival events. The other big news is the revival of the Bangalow Art Prize. This year we have received over 25 entries, which just shows how much local talent is out there ready to be discovered. We are delighted that with the support of Ninbella Gallery, MHL Legal & Notary, and the Bangalow business community sponsors we have been able to fund this very important initiative to the community of Bangalow.
Thursday–Sunday at the Bangalow A&I Hall and associated venues.
For programs and tix go to southernxsoloists.com
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