A collection of the world’s most distinguished musicians and composers will call Townsville home for the next 10 days, as the 2018 Australian Festival of Chamber Music (AFCM) returns for its 28th year.
This year features a lineup of musicians making their debut in Australia, as well as Festival favourites such as Australian percussionist Claire Edwardes.
“I’ve been playing here every second year for quite a few years now – the weather, the music and the people all definitely keep me wanting to come back,” Claire said.
“I feel like a bit of a fish out of water at most classical music festivals, because I’m a percussionist so while I’m classically trained, I’m not in any pieces by Mozart, Bach or Brahms. While that music is often a big focus of a lot of classic and chamber music festivals, I enjoy bringing in new music – which is what I will be performing here in Townsville.
“People often shy away when they hear new music at a chamber music festival, because it’s not what they know – but what I try to do is engage audiences with music that they may not have heard before but which is still really accessible – percussion can draw you in on different levels.”
Claire will feature in several premieres as part of this year’s Festival, including a couple by Australian composers.
“In the opening concert I’m playing the world premiere of RAQAD by Paul Stanhope, which is a marimba solo – a big wooden instrument, like a xylophone. On Sunday morning, Karin Schaupp and I are premiering a new piece by Connor D’Netto who’s a young Brisbane-based composer really going places at the moment – that one will feature the vibraphone and guitar.
“I love to champion new work full stop, but especially work by female composers – so I’m also playing a piece by a young Melbourne-based composer Clare Johnston which is a vibraphone solo. I think Julian Yu’s inclusion as composer in residence at the festival is incredible because it means we’ll also be hearing a lot of his work too, as another Australian composer. I think Kathy [Artistic Director Kathryn Stott] has done a great job of balancing traditional stuff people may expect but with a twist, to keep things exciting.”
Other premieres this week include pieces by Argentina’s JP Jofre.
“I will have two world premieres of work this week, and have some other pieces making Australian premieres at this Festival,” JP said.
“I wrote some of these for my own quintet in New York where I live. I had the chance to play this music with Kathryn in New York, and they’re very exciting pieces with Tango flavour. It’s new music and a new way to express Tango and the way I feel it – I’m from Argentina, and have played Tango for many years – but composing is what I’ve always loved to do.
“I don’t think Tango in chamber music is very common – there’s a trend to play Piazzolla. Many people are in love with his music, but in this case I’m proud to be playing a lot of my music and think it’ll be interesting.
“I’m particularly excited to play with Karen [Gomyo] – she’s a fantastic violinist. We’re going to perform a piece I wrote for violin and bandoneon, which is a very exciting combination.”
Karen said despite many of the musicians in this year’s Festival knowing each other for some time, this week would be the first time they’d performed together.
“I’ve heard so much about JP and I believe we’ve been friends on Facebook for some years now, but we’re meeting here in Townsville for the first time which is wonderful,” Karen said.
“I think it really is special that you have a concentration of musicians from different parts of the world. Even yesterday when we rehearsed the Tchaikovsky sextet, I was looking around the group and thinking: ‘he’s from Germany, he’s from Hungary, he’s from England, he’s from Norway, he’s from Russia and I’m – multinational, but let’s say Canada.’ Looking around the room, it’s amazing to have these top-class artists coming from different countries and it’s very special – I hope the Australian public take interest in what we’ve put together this week, because it’s very special.”