AFCM Unveils Bumper Program

AFCM Artistic Director Kathryn Stott (centre) with Townsville Grammar students Lauren To and Luke Carroll.

The Australian Festival of Chamber Music (AFCM) has unveiled its biggest ever line-up of musicians in anticipation of this year’s 30th Anniversary event.

With 2020 also marking 25 years of Australia’s famed Goldner String Quartet and 250 years since Beethoven’s birth, celebrations abound in this year’s program.

In all, 47 artists will perform over the 10-days, including 31 Australian artists and 16 international artists, with four making their Australian debut. In a wonderful musical coup for the event, four world premieres and 11 Australian premieres will be among more than 125 pieces being performed.

Speaking at AFCM’s official launch, Artistic Director Kathryn Stott said that no expense had been spared in celebrating AFCM’s 30th Anniversary.

“Four Festival commissions [will be played]; that’s substantial and they’re all really important to me,” Kathryn said.

“The first one will be performed on Opening Night and that’s by composer Deborah Cheetham AO, a wonderful Indigenous composer. She’s writing an acknowledgement of the land in her work that she’s going to write for the Goldner String Quartet and she will sing herself in the local Indigenous language.

“Then, as it’s Mr Beethoven’s birthday, I thought Ode to Joy was the perfect theme to choose for some variations. I’ve commissioned 25 Australian composers to write a variation on that theme … and they’re fantastic – some of them are very fun, some are jazzy, some are virtuosic; they’re all different. And what’s going to be fun is that the Goldner’s are going to construct it, so they’ll have 25 works and they’ll create the order in which they think they fit,” said Kathryn.

“I’ve commissioned a lovely singer, Roderick Williams, to write some songs for the wonderful soprano Carolyn Sampson … and I’m crazy about the allegretto from the Seventh Symphony of Beethoven; Liszt made a wonderful arrangement of it for solo piano and I thought ‘I’m having that for myself’, but I’ve asked Dancenorth to create a World Premiere choreography to that music, but thinking about the novella by Leo Tolstoy, The Kreutzer Sonata; so there’s a few twists in that evening.”

While AFCM’s huge program offers plenty of opportunity to witness some of the very best musicians from around the world, the Festival also seeks to nurture the next generation of artists.

While in Townsville for the launch, Kathryn visited with music students from Townsville Grammar School to discuss opportunities for making a lifestyle or career of music.

“All children have the potential to have a life with music – whether they pursue it as a professional is another thing –  but if you can start by developing that love music, that can really grow into something that can be with you all your life,” Kathryn said.

“Your heart will tell you if you want to be in the profession of music. But if you have a talent and skill, share it.”


The 30th Australian Festival of Chamber Music will be held on 31 July to 9 August 2020.

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