It may only be small, but Bellingen Music Festival certainly packs a punch.

This year’s Bellingen Music Festival looks to be another outstanding musical experience in this, it’s seventh year. It is a small festival by many standards, in tune with the small town of Bellingen, but certainly packs a punch. A festival review in Limelight claimed that “Bellingen is the perfect place in the world to have a classical music festival… just about the best setting.”  Performers say that Memorial Hall has the most fantastic acoustic. As in previous years, the programme is an intriguing mix of traditional and contemporary classical pieces, performed by both acclaimed and novice performers.

Celebrated recorder virtuoso, Genevieve Lacey, whose extraordinary versatility has seen her playing for the Queen in Westminster Abbey, on an oval on Thursday Island alongside Indigenous colleagues, in a shearing shed in north-west Tasmania and at the opening night of the London Jazz Festival, will headline the festival teamed up with pioneering classical accordionist James Crabb. Both Genevieve and James are soloists with a passion for chamber music and imaginative collaboration. Their repertoire ranges from medieval and renaissance treasures, through Bach, Vivaldi and Sammartini, via Scottish folk tunes, to contemporary classics by Piazzolla and Reich, and evocative new Nordic and Australian works.

On September 24th, the festival will feature one of Australia’s finest and most awarded chamber ensembles, The Tinalley String Quartet. Critically acclaimed for their flawless timing and technical precision, they have been praised for “just enough leavening humour”, for “sweet, unobtrusive lyricism” and for “musicianship at its highest”. The quartet will be playing Webern’s Langsamer Satz, Mendelssohn’s String Quartet, Op. 13 and the Ravel String Quartet.

Trio Rasa Duende, Tabla, Sarod and Flamenco Guitar, close the festival’s concert programme on the Sunday. Through their deep understanding and engagement with the highly expressive music cultures of Hindustani and Flamenco traditions they enthrall audiences with their captivating explorations of meeting points between these two traditions.

Weaving its way through the festival are the elements of the Music by Youth project for which the festival organisers have rightly been highly praised. This project, in part funded by the Australia Government through its Festivals Australia programme, provides the opportunity for local music students of all ages to interact, learn and work with professional musicians and give public performances. This year, as with the past two years, the project has been actively and generously supported by the Acacia Quartet who mentor, record and perform the works of selected HCS music students from schools in Bellingen and Coffs Harbour. 

As Acacia violinist Lisa Stewart says “The Music by Youth project in Bellingen is a remarkable showcase of local young talent combined with support from the community. To witness such support is a joy and it is a pleasure and delight to get to play the HSC compositions of these very gifted young people.”  

Later this year, works by two of last year’s Music by Youth students, Evie Bacigalupo and Lachlan Wilkins, are to be broadcast by the Acacia Quartet on Fine Music 102.5 FM as part of Australia Music Month in November. As Andrew Batt-Rawden notes, “For students to be able to access professional performers of this calibre is a very unique and valuable experience.”

Elements of the Music by Youth project at this year’s festival include:

Music Workshops/Performance
The Acacia Quartet will provide string instrument workshops for local primary school music students and for secondary school students in conjunction with the Bellingen Youth Orchestra rehearsal for their evening opening concert at the Festival. The Acacia Quartet will join the Bellingen Youth Orchestra in performance for some of the works in this concert.

Mentoring, Recording, Performance of HSC Compositions
Paul Jarman, Festival Composer-In-Residence, will be mentoring HSC Music 2 Students in writing their composition for HSC submission. Up to six of these students then have the opportunity to go to Sydney in August to have their works performed by the Acacia Quartet and recorded in the Fine Music 102.5 FM recording Studio for their HSC submission. The Acacia Quartet will then perform their works in the Youth and Exuberance Opening Concert of the festival. The Brisbane Birrallee Voives choir will also join the Bellingen Youth Orchestra to perform a work specially commissioned for the festival by Jarman.

Paul Jarman with 2015 HSC Music students at Coffs Harbour Senior College

Classical Slam
Paul Jarman as adjudicator and Patti Kearns as compere will conduct a Classical Slam for compositions written by local secondary school students and performed by their peers in the Bellingen Memorial Hall on the Sunday morning. This will be followed by a private feedback session for all participants with Paul Jarman. Local secondary schools will be invited to participate.

Classical Busking
School students of all ages, grouped by school, will be busking throughout the centre of the Bellingen on the Saturday morning.

Bellingen Music Festival runs September 22-25