A month ago, it looked like this year’s AFCM – originally scheduled for July 31 to August 9 in Townsville – was off the cards, another victim of the current pandemic. But now, thanks to a helping hand from the pioneering Melbourne Digital Concert Hall (MDCH), it looks like three concerts at least from what was to be the Festival’s 30th anniversary – and the last under the artistic direction of British pianist Kathryn Stott – will go ahead online.

Kathryn StottAustralian Festival of Chamber Music Artistic Director Kathryn Stott. Photo © Jacqui Ferry

“It’s been an incredibly challenging time for artists all around the world, and indeed a sad time for AFCM with the postponement of the festival for 12 months,” says Stott. “However, we are absolutely thrilled to be able to present an online festival as a way of showcasing some of next year’s artists, providing them not only with income but the opportunity to bring us together through wonderful live music making.’’

What that means is Festival Prelude, a three-day digital festival that will stream from August 7 to 9, with tickets on sale from July 13. Stott herself will be the daily host of a program that includes interviews, flashbacks to previous festivals, a daily event called “Chamber Challenge” and a visual and musical celebration of Townsville and North Queensland. Among the specially-recorded performances, Stott will perform alongside violinist Jack Liebeck – the incoming AFCM Artistic Director – and Festival favourite, baritone Roderick Williams. Artists booked for the three headline events – which will stream live from venues in Melbourne and Sydney – include clarinettist Lloyd Van’t Hoff, Ensemble Liaison and the Nexas Saxophone Quartet.

Incoming AFCM AD Jack Liebeck. Photo @ Kaupo Kikkas

“These three concerts will be musically beautiful and will also be a wonderfully engaging experience through the Q&A sessions, which our AFCM fans will recognise as similar to the incredibly popular Concert Conversation series,” adds Stott.

The partnership with MDCH is a smart one. Over recent months the highly successful entrepreneurial outfit has invested in top notch audio and visual equipment, all of which has been praised by viewers and critics alike. “Audience members can watch from anywhere around the world and we are encouraging our valued patrons, where permitted, to host their own watch parties with friends and family,” says Stott. “Ticket holders simply need internet access to be able to view the concert at the advised start time.”

Ensemble-Liaison1.jpgEnsemble Liason

“Moving this event online, has the potential to promote North Queensland to millions more music fans,” says Tourism Minister Kate Jones. “The Festival Prelude will help showcase the arts and the Townsville region to a wider audience and hopefully encourage more people to experience it in person in 2021. Townsville is one of the most beautiful places in the world to come and visit. Because Queenslanders have done such a great job fighting COVID-19, we can now start welcoming tourists back to our state.”

The majority of the program and artists from Stott’s final Festival as Artistic Director have been successfully rescheduled for 2021, when the AFCM will run from July 23 to August 1.

Digital tickets for this year’s Festival Prelude are $20 with a $4 admin fee, and three-day Festival passes are also available. All ticket income will go to the artists performing in each concert and the AFCM will not be receiving any revenue from ticket sales.

For full program and tickets visit afcm.com.au or melbournedigitalconcerthall.com