AFCM Hits the Town

Sheng player Wu Tong said he could never imagine performing in the back of a Townsville bar - but that will change tonight, when he headlines 'AFCM Up Late' at the Heritage Exchange.

For the first time in the event’s 28-year history, the Australian Festival of Chamber Music is kicking back and taking over Flinders Street, for AFCM Up Late at the Heritage Exchange tonight.

The event will feature Chinese Sheng player Wu Tong, supported by a number of local musicians.

Wu Tong said despite his instrument being relatively unknown in Townsville, he had grown up living and breathing it.

“The sheng is an ancient Chinese instrument like a mouth organ. For me, the sheng has been around almost my entire life – four generations of my family have played it, so it does not seem like a rare instrument to me,” Wu Tong said.

“The sheng is very different because you can play it soft or play it in a rock band, like I used to do. Music is a great way to teach you to stay calm too – because sometimes you have to play the same note for so long and you need to control your breathing – if you think other things, you lose your focus and it changes.

“I’m not sure what I’ll play [at Heritage Exchange] yet – I guess it will be like I played at the Orpheus Island concert, improvisation. Here is a beautiful bar, but with so many different noises it’s different to the beach. But we must have those changes as humans. Like me – I like to drink alcohol! I enjoy that just to relax, but also sometimes just want to sit down and drink tea and think logically. I think both sides are important to have and are beautiful: if you only have tea you’re too controlled, but if you’re only drunk and mad, that is too much too. So balancing is really beautiful. The beach was amazing, I couldn’t imagine I’d do that and also couldn’t imagine being here in this bar.”

Wu Tong will be supported by a number of local musicians, including cellist Rike Wolf.

“We’re creating a fusion of improvisation and classical music elements, with aspects of ancient melodies melded in together with contemporary influences to melt down the boundaries between genres in our playing,” said Rike.

“I think getting to play here as part of the Festival is excellent – my training from Germany is very classical but have always loved involving other genres and letting go of the classical structure – which I still love and admire and which is so incredible in its own sense. Embracing other facets of music as well is great, and think having this at the Heritage is a brilliant way of reaching out to a broader audience and letting them appreciate what classical has to offer in among other genres.”

Catch AFCM Up Late at the Heritage Exchange tonight, with local musicians performing from 7pm and Wu Tong playing at 10pm. For more information, visit the AFCM website.

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