“Soak it up,” is Ben Opie’s advice for newcomers to the Peninsula Summer Music Festival. For the oboist and co-founder of the Inventi Ensemble (with flautist Melissa Doecke), the 2019 Festival on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula will be his first as Director – but he’s by no means a newcomer, having performed there with Inventi.
“I’ve been down for probably about six of them as an audience member as well,” Opie tells Limelight. “So I feel like I have been part of the Festival in various different ways.”
Ben Opie and Melissa Doecke. Photo: supplied
In his first year at the helm, Opie hopes to build on the “strong foundation” set up by the Festival’s founder Julia Fredersdorff, who incorporated a wide range of music from early music to jazz in the Festival’s line-up. “That’s what I was thinking when putting the program together,” Opie says. “And then also about how we could potentially activate some more venues that are on the Peninsula and also bring in a bit of diversity and collaboration as well.”
For Opie, one of the highlights of the upcoming Festival is Song & Story, a work by Melbourne-based cellist Stephanie Arnold, in collaboration with singer/songwriter James Henry, that combines music with oral histories and storytelling, created through interviews with local indigenous visual artists from the Peninsula’s own urban Aboriginal community arts centre, Baluk Arts, and presented in the intimate space of the Whistlewood Gallery. “That one I’m quite excited about, seeing what the outcome of that project will be with those three different aspects to it,” Opie says. “I think that’s going to be very exciting.”
Opie will also be bringing down the Australian Haydn Ensemble from Sydney for the period instrument group’s Victorian debut. “I’ve known the Haydn Ensemble for some time and Skye [McIntosh, the ensemble’s founder and Artistic Director] and I just know how outstanding they are as artists and I’m really excited to introduce them to the Victorian audiences,” Opie says.
The Peninsula Hot Springs will host Bach & Bathe. Photo: supplied
For Opie, performances at the Peninsula Hot Springs – where audiences can bathe while listening to Bach – are another highlight. “We’ve got four different events that are happening at the hot springs and it’s all happening with the opportunity to be bathing whilst listening to this music,” Opie says. “It’s something that I personally do as part of my career, putting classical music in unusual places, but it is one of the credos of the Festival as well – finding these unique places on the Peninsula and then activating them with classical music.”
“Having a roaming solo violinist walking through these mineral baths and playing solo Bach music while people are soaking in the baths – I think that’s going to be a unique experience,” he says. “And I guess that’s the other thing – finding those unique experiences as part of this festival is what I’m getting quite excited about as well.”
There are plenty of events to soak up at the Festival – including more kids’ events than ever before – and Inventi Ensemble will also be performing, in an innovative concert featuring Mozart’s ‘Church Sonatas’ at St Mark’s Anglican Church. “I think we’ve got something like 30 events including some double ups of different performances,” says Opie. “There is so much diversity in here with The Hoodangers’ jazz performance and the Furbelows, which is kind of Andrews Sisters swing show on the first performance. And then a whole range of things throughout: new classical contemporary music and this quasi-experimental music with Stephanie Arnold – there really is something for everyone.”
“I would hope that people can look at the program and find the things that they like,” Opie says. “But then also be inspired to take on something new at the same time.”
The Peninsula Summer Music Festival runs January 1 – 13 on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula