Music Australia News

A New Chamber Music Festival For Tasmania

Graham Strahle
| May 23, 2017

The first festival in Tasmania to be devoted to chamber music will be held at Evandale in the state’s north in October. The three-day Tasmanian Chamber Music Festival is an initiative of art gallery director Allanah Dopson and is being supported by a $20,000 grant from the State Government’s tourism arm, Events Tasmania.

The festival’s six concerts will take place in historic buildings in and around the township including a local winery and the magnificent colonial landmark, Clarendon. Performers will be Tinalley String Quartet, recorder player Genevieve Lacey, harpist Marshall McGuire, pianist Piers Lane, and the recently formed Hobart-based Van Diemen’s Band, which is dedicated to historically informed performance.

The loss of the high profile Hobart Baroque festival under controversial circumstances three years ago has left a void in Tasmania’s classical music calendar which this new, albeit smaller, annual event promises to help fill. The Island State already has MOFO (aka MONA FOMA and its winter solstice version, Dark Mofo), but this of course is aimed at contemporary music audiences.

As its director, Dopson says the Tasmanian Chamber Music Festival will be a “boutique” event that brings music-making to “intimate, beautiful surroundings” in the State’s north.

“Evandale is an almost intact Georgian town, and I’ve always thought more could be done to draw attention to its wonderful, historic buildings there.”

Dopson has been operating Handmark Gallery in Evandale since 2009, specialising in Tasmanian art, craft and design (she also owns the Handmark outlet in Hobart). Prior to that, she pursued a career in arts management and was the Australian Chamber Orchestra state manager in South Australia.

“Music remains my passion. It has always been where my soul is,” she says. “Hobart Baroque was fantastic while it lasted, but I think boutique is the way to go.”

Considering the success of many smaller type food, wine and music festivals around Australia, one would have to agree. There are now many outstanding examples: Bangalow Music Festival, Four Winds Festival and the Huntington Festival in NSW, Queensland’s Australian Festival of Chamber Music, Victoria’s Port Fairy Spring Music Festival, and the Coriole Music Festival and newer Ukaria 24 in South Australia.

Each has its own musical flavour, and it looks likely the Tasmanian Chamber Music Festival will too. Dopson wants the music to centre on familiar repertoire but range into unexpected places, performed by musicians who know how to communicate.

“I want music that everybody loves and I want musicians who can really connect with audiences,” says Dopson.

“A highlight will be Tinalley playing Mendelssohn, which they’ve just recorded, Barber’s Adagio, and Dvorak’s American String Quartet. I am also very excited to get Genevieve and Marshall here. They play recorder and harp in a wonderfully varied concert. Then there’s Van Diemen’s Band at Falls Pavillion, after which [ABC Classic FM’s] Christopher Lawrence speaks to the musicians.”

“The final concert in a private barn up the road, Marshall will play Bach’s Goldberg Variations, pieces by Paul Dean, Handel, Peggy G-Glanville-Hicks and John Cage on harp. That will be eclectic and beautiful.”

Bookings have been strong and tickets are remaining for only three concerts.

Research for Tourism Australia cited in a Music Australia report has shown that music is the second strongest regional event attractor after food and wine. Music has the added advantage that people are prepared to travel further and stay longer than for any other event type.  Combining all these elements, as Evandale is planning, offers a real recipe for regional success.

“Next year I might try slightly larger venues,” Dopson says. “But I just I want the occasion to be really intimate and wonderful. I know what the dream is, and hopefully the reality will meet that.”

The Tasmanian Chamber Music Festival runs 27-29 October. Details can be found here.

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