30th Australian Festival of Chamber Music program announced

AFCM Sheku Kanneh-Mason - photo by Jake TurneyCelebrating an extraordinary generation of music making in the north as well as the 25th anniversary of Australia’s famed Goldner String Quartet and the 250th anniversary of Beethoven, more musicians than ever before will perform at the 30th Australian Festival of Chamber Music (AFCM) in Townsville from 31 July to 9 August 2020.

Themed Carnival, 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 performed as part of over 125 pieces being played in total.

In the third and final AFCM under the artistic direction of celebrated British pianist Kathryn Stott, the line-up includes British cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason who shot to fame globally after performing at the wedding of Harry and Meghan in May 2018, British flute player Adam Walker, violinists Alexander Sitkovetsky (Russia), Amalia Hall (NZ), and Lise Berthaud (France) and pianist Marianna Shirinyan (Denmark).

Australian artists include bassist Kirsty McCahon, Zoe Black (violin), Tobias Breider (viola), Mark Gaydon (bassoon), James Crabb (accordion), Lloyd Van’t Hoff (clarinet), Timothy Young (piano), the Tinalley String Quartet and Nexas Saxophone Quartet plus internationally applauded didgeridoo star William Barton, returning to the Festival to celebrate the 30th anniversary.

Making their Australian debuts, together with Sheku Kanneh-Mason, are American violinist Tai Murray, Finnish cellist Jan-Erik Gustafsson and Japan’s Yumi Kurosawa who plays the enchanting 13-stringed Koto – a traditional stringed instrument from Japan.

Famed violinist, composer and teacher Pavel Fischer will return to direct the Festival’s Winterschool program, while the Concert Host for 2020 will be the UK’s Petroc Trelawny from the BBC, and the multi-award winning Dancenorth returns to the AFCM with a world premiere collaboration celebrating Beethoven.

On Thursday 6 August, the Festival will join music lovers around the world in celebrating Beethoven’s 250th Anniversary. Beethoven was recently voted Australia’s favourite composer in ABC Classic’s Top 100 Composer countdown.

Artistic Director Kathryn Stott has programmed three concerts inspired by the great composer, including an evening concert based around his Kreutzer Sonata. Audiences can expect performances throughout the Festival which salute his genius, in particular the commission of the Goldner Variations by 25 esteemed Australian composers.

The 25 Australian composers are (in alphabetical order): Joe Chindamo, Robert Davidson, Brett Dean, Paul Dean, Ross Edwards, Andrew Ford, Paul Grabowsky, Iain Grandage, Maria Grenfell, Holly Harrison, Matthew Hindson, Mark Isaacs, Jakub Jankowski, Elena Kats-Chernin, Graeme Koehne AO, Liza Lim, Nicole Murphy, John Peterson, Andrew Schulz, Harry Sdraulig, Paul Stanhope, Clare Strong (formerly Johnston), Carl Vine, Natalie Williams and Elizabeth Younan.

The theme will be Beethoven’s iconic Ode to Joy and will unite both the Goldner String Quartet and Beethoven anniversaries together in the most spectacular way.

The Festival will also welcome its youngest ever artist, 12-year-old Melbourne violinist Christian Li. He made history last year by becoming the youngest ever winner of the Menuhin Competition, the world’s leading competition for violin players under 22. Another young star is 23-year-old Australian pianist Kevin Chow who will appear as part of his ABC Young Performers Award.

“We have music spanning centuries and continents, and exciting commissions and premieres all mixed into a joyous potpourri of the most celebrated chamber music repertoire ever written,” said Ms Stott. “It is a 10-day program of musical highlights which opens on Friday 31 July with the world premiere of a very special commission.”

“As part of celebrations for the Goldner String Quartet’s 25th anniversary, we have commissioned Deborah Cheetham AO to write a work featuring herself singing alongside Peter Coleman-Wright AO and the Goldners. She will be writing in the indigenous language of the Wulgurukaba people as acknowledgment of their culture and the land on which the Festival resides. How wonderful!”

The 30th AFCM takes place in Townsville, North Queensland from Friday 31 July to Sunday 9 August and features 21 concerts, six free events and five special events including a magical concert on Palm Island and one on Magnetic Island.

The program includes six morning Concert Conversations, Sunset and Evening Series concerts, inspirational Winterschool masterclasses and performances as well as the Cleveland Bay Concert, Future Stars Special and a Fundraising luncheon with Maggie Beer. Tickets for all events are now on sale!

For more information on the Australian Festival of Chamber Music, visit: www.afcm.com.au for details.

Image: Sheku Kanneh-Mason – photo by Jake Turney