Canberra International Music Festival has unveiled its 2018 programme, with medieval harpist and performer Benjamin Bagby’s Beowulf and a large-scale performance of Handel’s oratorio Israel in Egypt among the highlights, as well as artists such as Cecilia Bernardini, John Bell, Tim Fain, The Seven Harp Ensemble, Bach Akademie Australia, Roger Woodward and Dapper’s Delight.

While the 2017 CIMF focussed on revolution and social upheaval – it was the 100th anniversary year of the Russian revolutions – this year’s festival is united by a theme of ‘Return’.

“I wanted to do a festival that delves a little bit into the roots of our music making – our music practice, our music traditions, where they come from in a sense,” CIMF Artistic Director Roland Peelman told Limelight.

Roland Peelman, Canberra International Music FestivalCanberra International Music Festival Artistic Director Roland Peelman. Photo © William Hall

Thus one of the highlights of the 2018 festival will be a performance of the Old English epic poem Beowulf (written down around the year 1000 but composed earlier) by medieval harpist Benjamin Bagby, who has reconstructed a one-man performance of the epic that has garnered praise around the world. “[Bagby] shifted from whispering, to muttering, to shouting, to singing the Anglo-Saxon lines so deftly that song and speech were essentially merged,” said a review in the New York Times.

Benjamin BagbyBenjamin Bagby performing Beowulf. Photo © Susanna Drescher

Another highlight will be a performance of Handel’s oratorio Israel in Egypt, for which Peelman will be joined by musicians from period instrument ensemble Bach Akademie Australia, Coro, Kompactus, Luminescence and soloists Susannah Lawergreen, Chloe Lankshear, Tobias Cole, Richard Butler, Anderw Fysh and Andrew O’Connor.

The 2018 festival will also see the Orava Quartet bring a programme of Haydn, Rachmaninov and Debussy to Canberra, while actor John Bell and pianist Simon Tedeschi will perform Strauss’ setting of Tennyson’s poem Enoch Arden.

Mary Finsterer, Canberra International Music FestivalMary Finsterer is Composer-in-Residence at the 2018 Canberra International Music Festival.

For new music enthusiasts, a programme titled Glass Games will feature music by Philip Glass, Kate Moore, Benjamin Drury, Eugène Ysaÿe and Luciano Berio, while Australian composer Mary Finsterer will return to Canberra as the festival’s 2018 Composer-in-Residence. Finsterer’s Angelus for clarinet trio will be performed in the concert Ulysses Now while the Festival Finale will feature the Australia Premiere of In Praise of Darkness, her award-winning tribute to Argentinian writer Jorg Luis Borges. The opening concert of the festival will feature the world premiere of Brenda Gifford’s The Seasons.

The festival will see the return of well-loved events such as the Bach on Sunday concert and free daily sunset performances in the Turrell Skyspace, while new additions will include several performances at Canberra’s National Arboretum. The festival will also feature birthday tributes to Claude Debussy and Leonard Bernstein and a project focusing on returned servicemen and women.

“The Festival brings together the best of what Canberra has to offer,” said Peelman. “Iconic spaces, art and nature, a genuine thirst for the newest vibe as well as an understanding of the great foundation stones of Western music.”

An interview with Canberra International Music Festival Artistic Director Roland Peelman will be published in the January/February issue of Limelight. Click here to subscribe.


The Canberra International Music Festival runs April 27 to May 6 at venues around Canberra.

Tickets