Season Preview: Your guide to the arts in 2021

Canberra International Music Festival has announced its 2021 program. “For this festival, we’re taking you to Vienna, recently crowned as the most liveable city in the world,” Artistic Director Roland Peelman says. “That means, it’s sort of up there with places like Canberra, because there’s nature, birds and trees everywhere, beautiful vistas, and great colours, particularly in Autumn. But above all, there’s art and culture.”

Canberra International Music Festival Artistic Director Roland Peelman. Photo © Anthony Browell

Following the cancellation of the 2020 Festival due to the COVID-19 pandemic, next year’s Festival will feature all Australian artists. “For the 2021 Festival, we have assembled artists from all corners of Australia,” Peelman says.

There will be strong a focus on Indigenous musicians, with the Festival line-up including Brenda Gifford, Chris Sainsbury, Nardi Simpson, William Barton, Eric Avery, the Tiwi Strong Women and the Wilfred brothers from Arnhem Land. “Indeed, we are featuring Indigenous artists at every single day of this year’s Festival,” Peelman says.

“And then we have period specialists, like Neal Peres da Costa on fortepiano, Nicole van Bruggen on classical clarinet, and the Australian Romantic & Classical Orchestra,” Peelman says. “Probably the most prominent period specialists in Australia, coming for the first time to the Festival.”

The Festival will also feature the premiere of Katy’s Abbott’s interactive Hidden Thoughts ‘Do I matter?’, distilled from the answers of over 200 women to a confidential survey about their private thoughts, as well as the multi-premiere of The Australian Voices’ Far and Near, which saw the ensemble commission 22 composers to write a response to the pandemic during a time when no one could physically sing together.

Other ensembles and artists at the Festival will include the Partridge Quartet, Ensemble Offspring (“the great mavericks of contemporary music in Australia,” as Peelman says), violinist Kristian Winther, jazz musicians Andrea Keller and Sandy Evans, and the Australian Art Orchestra.

“Vienna stands for the central axis in classical music,” Peelman says. “It’s the place where Schubert was born. It’s the place where Johann Strauss was born, and made his career with waltzes, it’s the place where Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven made their career, where they changed musical history. It is also the place of change, the place where around 1900 the visual arts changed, design, philosophy, science, psychology was invented. It’s where Sigmund Freud worked, it’s where Wittgenstein took philosophy into the 20th century, it’s where Gustav Mahler led the opera house. A great place of change, designed – a little bit like Canberra – by enlightened people with great grand boulevards and great palaces. Canberra has boulevards, it doesn’t really have palaces, but it has great institutions, and some great architecture.”


Canberra International Music Festival takes place in venues across Canberra 30 April to 9 May, 2021

The Full Program

Read our new magazine online