The Tasmanian Chamber Music Festival – which takes place in Northern Tasmania, in and around the Georgian village of Evandale – is now in its second year, and according to Director Allanah Dopson, it’s bigger than ever, and indeed several events have already sold out. “There’s a large appetite for chamber music in Tasmania,” Dopson tells Limelight. “But I think there’s an even larger appetite for interstate people to come to our wonderful island and discover the countryside and some lovely venues to hear this great chamber music in.”

For harpsichordist Erin Helyard, who performed at the inaugural festival and will be back this year to play concerts of Bach and Handel, it’s not just musical appetites the event sates. “It’s a really lovely atmosphere Allanah’s set up down there: complements of good food, craft gin and really good music, and that’s a really nice mix to have and it’s a really nice part of Tasmania – so I’m looking forward to going back.”

Tasmanian Chamber Music FestivalTasmanian Chamber Music Festival Director Allanah Dopson. Photo supplied

The success of the festival last year has meant Dopson has had to look at larger venues to cater for the demand. “This year we’ve decided to extend not just around Evandale but off to Longford,” she explains, “and we’re using the beautiful Christ Church Anglican Church in Longford.”

Helyard will join soprano Jacqueline Porter and violinist (and concertmaster of the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra) Emma McGrath for a candle-lit concert of Handel in the church on the Saturday evening. Helyard’s will perform Handel’s Harpsichord Suite in F Major, which he recorded on his first solo disc last year. “When I recorded them, I hadn’t actually performed them, so I look forward to performing it,” he says. “It’s a great program, Jacqui is an old mate of mine and we’ve done some of the German songs before, but the centrepiece of that program will be the La Lucrezia which is this amazing cantata that Handel wrote in Florence.”

The cantata draws on the inner turmoil faced by the legendary Lucretia following her rape by Tarquinius. “It’s really dramatic,” Helyard says. “It’s like a mini opera scena really, and Jacqui is just fabulous so I’m really excited to do such dramatic works in an intimate setting like that.”

“We’re also trying something different on the Sunday, using three barns,” Dopson says.

Tasmanian Chamber Music FestivalEmma McGrath and Erin Helyard rehearsing in Hobart. Photo supplied

The barns that will be used for the Bach in the Barns concerts only hold 80 people each, but the audience will rotate between the three. “It’s like a progressive dinner in that people go from barn to barn with unaccompanied Bach,” she says.

Sydney Symphony Orchestra’s Principal Cellist Umberto Clerici will perform Bach’s Second Cello suite in one barn, while McGrath performs the Violin Partita in E major in another, and Helyard plays in the third. “I’m doing one of my favourite Bach Suites, the E Flat Lautenwerck piece and then two Toccatas,” Helyard says.

Clerici will also join the Tinalley String Quartet (“who were there last year, who we just all fell in love with,” Dopson says) in Schubert’s String Quintet on the Friday evening. Tinalley will also perform with clarinettist Andrew Seymour (Principal Clarinet of the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra) on Saturday afternoon for some Mozart.

“The Grigoryan Brothers are also playing, in the Uniting Church in Evandale,” Dopson says. “And that’s just such a wonderfully symmetrical, architecturally interesting venue.”

The guitarist duo will perform works by Handel, Bach, Tchaikovsky, De Falla and more. “I think that will be very interesting for a Saturday morning, and uplifting,” Dopson says.

“It brings like-minded music lovers together and you’re all sitting in a great acoustic in a beautiful place, listening to heavenly music, and you come out just inspired and happy and joyous,” she says. “I hope that [audience members will] also discover parts of Northern Tasmania, through the back lanes, through finding these interesting barns, that they didn’t know existed – and interspersed with that there’ll be some good food and wine.”


The Tasmanian Chamber Music Festival takes place in Tasmania’s Northern Midlands October 26 – 28

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Limelight, Australia's Classical Music and Arts Magazine