Sun shines on the Bellingen Music Festival

The Bellingen Youth Orchestra gave the final performance of the Music Festival on Sunday evening. Caitlin Pengily
Nanjing Night Net

Musical Director of The Song Company, Roland Peelman, ran a one-day workshop for schools at Bellingen High School on Friday

The Orava String Quartet

The weather shone for most of the weekend and hundreds flocked to the third Bellingen Music Festival.

Saturday night was a sell out and what a wonderful night it was. The four delightful young men of the Melbourne Guitar Quartet quickly warmed to the informal atmosphere of Bellingen and delighted with their accomplished but friendly and inclusive performance. Inclusivity was the order of the day with The Song Company incorporating a number of the local children and adults who had joined them in workshop over the previous two days.

What a stunning performance entranced the audience, wonderfully staged thanks to the assistance of Max Thrower and Brad Ross. Many wept at Clive Birch’s extraordinarily moving rendition of Eric Bogle’s ‘And the Band Played Waltzing Mathilda’. Local didgeridoo player Shane Nelson added a captivating spiritual dimension through gesture and expression on top of his fantastic playing. Shane accompanied The Song Company in what might be called contemporary classical pieces such as Ross Edwards’ Dawn Mantras and Sarah Hopkins’ haunting Past Life Melodies. The Song Company demonstrated their extraordinary versatility, as the previous night they had brilliantly performed madrigals and cantigas from as early as the thirteenth century.

This was a theme throughout the Festival – the contemporary with the classical, sometimes combined, sometimes not. Accord pour Deux, a French Horn duo, challenged the audience with types of music many would never have heard before but, rather than dismiss, many commented on how intriguing they found the works. Indeed Accord Pour Deux performed pieces especially commissioned for the festival. And perhaps this is what every classical music festival should try to achieve – an engaging combination of classical masterpieces, popular favourites, contemporary interpretations of old favourites and the challenge of the unfamiliar.

Shelli Hulcombe accompanied by Deirdre Rickards also demonstrated a wide repertoire ranging from Schumann’s song cycle through romantic favourites to jazz and charmed the audience with a decidedly cheeky performance featuring Trevor Cheyney, as an audience participant. We’re looking forward to seeing Trevor on stage again in the future.

Regional festivals provide wonderful opportunities for up and coming young performers – such as the Musica Viva Rising Stars, The Orava Quartet. Their performance of Wojciech Kilar’s 1986 Orawa (thus their name) was thrilling; their rendition of Mendelssohn’s final string quartet moved many in the audience to tears. Bellingen was fortunate to hear these wonderful young musicians as this was their last performance together.

Youthful energy was present in abundance with the astounding Bellingen Youth Orchestra, which grows from strength to strength under the leadership of Ann Phelan and, as she generously acknowledged, energetic community support. Young solo performers Caitlin Pengily and Blake Cutler riveted the audience with their highly accomplished performances and the strength and confidence of the orchestral pieces swelled the packed hall with local pride.

The Uniting Church provided a wonderful setting for AkaBella who sang to a delighted full house (and Channel 9 TV crew!). The Nexus Gallery also proved to be a popular venue and suited well the repertoire of talented local classical guitar duo Kari winder and Karin Braidwood.

This 3rd Bellingen Music Festival showed itself to be on a par with many a more established classical music festival. Credit rightly goes to all the wonderful performers. But events like these do not happen without a huge amount of community support and background work over many months. Furthermore, without the financial assistance of sponsors, it is not possible to envisage such events. Finally, it is the patrons who make thoughts of future events possible. The organisers wish to thank the Bellingen community for supporting the festival in the myriad ways that it did and to thank the major sponsors for believing in us and hopefully continue to do so. ETC, Si Clean Energy, Officeworks. Essential Energy, Bellingen Chamber of Commerce, Bellingen Shire Council, Bellingen Shire Courier-Sun, Musica Viva, UNE, Ave, Roots Records, Mouza – and last but not least Camp Creative, thank you.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.