Newly appointed artistic director of the Four Winds Festival, Paul Dean, shares his key curatorial ingredients.

Why do people go to music festivals? Festivals, particularly regional festivals, create a unique environment for the creation and performance of arts. Audiences are out of their normal lives, and normal surroundings and in a sense give themselves to the Festival – therefore creating a wonderful performer and listener/observer relationship. No one in the audience, especially at Four Winds, is really worried about getting up early for work the next day, or fighting the mad city traffic to get an incredibly over priced car park in an unbelievable rush to make the downbeat.

The Four Winds audience is greeted by one of the most breathtaking natural backdrops of any concert venue in the world. And of course, once you have calm and serenity and extraordinary beauty the listener can open their mind and heart and soul and let music from all styles, eras and nationalities sink in. And sink in in a way that is not possible in the plastic, man-made clinically cold environment of the modern concert hall. Programming a festival, such as Four Winds, is about creating a balance between the known or at least mostly known alongside the new or unknown building a sense of challenge and intense vibrancy. If there is electricity on stage amongst the performances, no matter what the repertoire there will be a sense of real occasion in the crowd.

I have always been intensely committed to commissioning, programming and performing Australian music, and it’s vitally important to encourage our own voice, so that we as a country don’t become just a replica of European or American culture. We decided to have 25 percent Australian music – the rather depressing average for most performing organisations in Australia in 2013 was below 5 percent.

The new Windsong Pavillion

There are some wonderful Australian compositions that can stand beside Mendelssohn, Mozart and Beethoven. How is Australian music going to become part of our subconscious if we don’t hear it more? We will be hearing works by Sculthorpe, Stanhope and Hindson, and, importantly, a specially commissioned piece by James Ledger.

Festivals are about collaboration, and we will have some incredible artists playing together. Jack Liebeck will be playing Mendelssohn’s famous Violin Concerto on the Sound Shell stage on the Sunday morning, backed by a stunning orchestra featuring all of the artists invited to the Festival. He will also perform Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time with Zubin Kanga,  Li-Wei Qin and me  in the first Festival use of the new and breathtaking Four Winds Windsong Pavilion, which I think has the best acoustics of any chamber music space in Australia. One musician told me recently that it was like playing inside a Stradivarius.


The new Windong Pavillion

The sensational Navarra String Quartet from London are coming for their first visit to Australia and will be playing both in the SoundShell, the Windsong Pavilion, and in a special exclusive house concert. They will perform Britten, Brahms, Haydn ,Schubert and Ravel. Joining these stunning international artists will be the newly formed Sculthorpe Wind Quintet, the young and brilliant Arcadia Wind Quintet, Taikoz, trumpeter David Elton, Ensemble Offspring, pianist Alex Rainieri and singers Andrew Goodwin and Jason Barry Smith.

Jason will be the star of HK Gruber’s Frankenstein –which is an incredible ‘tour de force’ showcase for all 11 performers. He piece, which is almost impossible to categorise, is hilarious, brilliant and sad all at the same time and is performed on slide whistles and toy trumpets alongside our conventional instruments. 

We will finish with the drama and passion of Zubin Kanga playing Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue –a fabulous piece to try out in the open air, in a beautiful grassed amphitheatre within sight of the sea.

And to relax in the evening, at the Double Bar in Bermagui  you will hear Radical Son effortlessly crossing genres from soul to hophop and beyond, his music and stories guided by his Indigenous heritage from the Kamilaroi nation of Australia and Tonga.

Personally, I can’t wait!

Tickets and information on 2016’s Four Winds Festival is available now.