Inspiring sopranos, prodigy pianists and guest musicians will perform at a series of concerts during the Newcastle Music Festival, soon returning to the city.

Christ Church Camerata performs Saturday, July 30 and Sunday, August 14. Photo credit: Photolook Newcastle

While the Newcastle Music Festival was conceived in 2016 to support and showcase local acts, festival spokesperson, Jillian Albrecht, said it had evolved to become a destination for national and international performers.

“The festival has shown a local audience that loves classical music and performers,” she said. 

“Providing an opportunity for Newcastle-based musicians to work with people from capital cities, interstate and overseas is a huge bonus because it’s not always easy to break into the music world.” 

Albrecht said this year was a chance to re-book musicians who could not perform during 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic.

“We’re trying to give those performers who missed out on the opportunity to perform, so we’re running an additional weekend to what we would normally do.”

The Newcastle Music Festival will officially commence on July 29 and run until August 14; however, an additional weekend of events has been added on June 3 and 4.

Among performances at this year’s festival will be Alicia Crossley, who specialises in commissioning works on a soprano recorder to a metre long recorder.

Acacia Quartet will also be performing at the music festival on June 3 from 7.30 pm at the Adamstown Uniting Church.

Performing at renowned locations like the Sydney Opera House and recording 12 albums, the string quartet have previously earned a nomination for an APRA-AMCOS Art Music Award for Excellence.

Audiences will also be treated to Australian pianist, Tamara-Anna Cislowska,  a child prodigy who first performed when she was three.

While Albrecht said the festival focused on classical music, she insisted that the concerts on offer appealed to a wide range of genres and audiences. 

“We lead many festivals by offering sensory concerts for people with specific needs who find it difficult to sit still or quiet during a concert,” Albrecht said.

“Grace Kim, the founder of Your Music Inc, has created a wonderful series of concerts that only run for about 45 minutes for children or anybody who finds they like a more relaxed concert atmosphere.

“She has an autistic son, and she realised it was challenging to take children who had specific sensory needs to ordinary concerts.”

The specifically designed sensory concerts encourage audience participation where people can march, walk and dance around to fun and interesting types of music.

Albrecht said the Newcastle Music Festival would also host a free competition with young pianists, cellists and violinists. 

“Every year, the Music Teachers Association of Newcastle runs a scholarship competition to support young performers,” she said.

“It will take place on Saturday, August 6, with one session held at Christ Church Cathedral in the morning and one at Adamstown Uniting Church in the afternoon.”

The festival fixture Albrecht said she looked forward to the most was a concert titled Toasting Mother Earth.

“It’s the name of a poem by local writer, Derek Dowding, who lives along Lake Macquarie,” she said. 

“He was asked by our artistic consultant and one of the festival founders, Ross Fiddes, to write a piece of work about climate change.

Acacia Quartet. Photo credit: Holly Bradford.

“He’s written this moving poem set to music… he has also asked the amazing Australian soprano, Anna Fraser, to premiere this work.”

The performance will be accompanied by pianist, Jack Symonds, and will be a world premiere. 

In previous years, she said the attending audience had been of an older demographic.

“There isn’t that much on offer in Newcastle for older people, so we love that the festival provides an opportunity for people over 50 to get out and enjoy beautiful music,” Albrecht said.

“We have many young people in Newcastle learning instruments, and they love coming to the concerts because they can see that in a few years, there’s an opportunity for them to become performers as well.”

Albrecht encouraged Novocastrians to come along and promised there would be something for everyone to enjoy.

“The festival is a volunteer-run festival,” she said.

“We’re not-for-profit, and we do depend on our local audiences to come out and support us.

“We really do not need to look beyond our Newcastle talent base for fantastic music to be performed.”

Tickets for the Newcastle Music Festival are available online, and for those who book before May 31, 10 per cent will be discounted from their ticket price.

Maia O’Connor

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