Sydney Chamber Music Festival
Holding to the maxim of ‘starting as you mean to go on’ and taking the broad and encompassing title of the Sydney Chamber Music Festival, this annual event has now reached its tenth anniversary.
In 2008, ignoring the elements of limited resources and a secure home, Artistic Director Bridget Bolliger, her supporting committee and Festival Patron Guy Noble plunged into the fray with a series of innovative concerts by outstanding players. The results speak for themselves.
Securing Manly Art Gallery & Museum as a permanent home from 2009 gave the Festival a unique quality. Listening to fine music in a large hall (purposely built for concerts in the 1920s) beside Sydney Harbour has given the Festival an energy and freshness that make it stand apart from similar events.
The programming of three weekend concerts, including one for children has ensured that the Festival remains vibrant and accessible. In its quest to engage very young audiences, the Saturday morning Coffee Concert series has presented 30 minute concerts of works that appeal directly to children. Sitting on the floor just metres from the players has enabled a new audience to see and hear instruments up close and to be guided through the elements of musical performance. This educative role saw the utilization of the talents of selected performers in a series of masterclasses for tertiary music students in 2008.
There have been multiple highlights over the past nine years and the list of first class players is extraordinary. Gerard Willems, Taryn Fiebig, James Crabb, the Faust Quartett, the Volatinsky Trio, Dimitri Ashkenazy, Shalev Ad-El, Teije Hylkema, Andrew Ford, Juerg Daehler, the Acacia Ensemble, Anthony Heinrichs, Jane Edwards, David Miller and of course Bridget Bolliger herself, are among the many whose dazzling talents have been part of these great events. The long list means that many others are regrettably omitted here.
The artistic programming has been innovative and thematic. Selecting works for a Parisian “Salon” theme (2011) or those related to birds, to complement the accompanying Manly Gallery visual art exhibition (2014), has repeatedly given audiences experiences of somewhat obscure works as well as contemporary pieces. Thematic program highlights have included the works of Elena Katz-Chernin in 2011, the Bach and Sons series from 2013, Forgotten Instruments from 2011 and the musical tribute to the actor John Bell, Robert Keane’s Five Shakespearean Portraits and a concert of Miriam Hyde’s compositions, both in 2015. The 2016 program A Celebration of Friendship and Youth, brought together friends Hylkema, Ashkenazy and Bolliger with Airena Nakamura, Grace Kim and Maria Raspopova with their fresh interpretations of Mozart, Mendelssohn, Gade, Bloch, MendelssohnBartholdy, Jolivet and Hyde. The 2017 program will feature works related to the Manly Gallery Phantom exhibition and in keeping with the tradition of showcasing Australian compositions, a new work by Jim Coyle will premiere.
Programming a remarkable series of ten concerts without external financial sponsorship and with only in-kind sponsorship from many organizations and individuals and volunteers is a note-worthy achievement. Congratulations to the Sydney Chamber Music Festival and happy anniversary!
Dr. Michael Hedger
Director Manly Art Gallery&Museum