As the 2018 Bellingen Fine Music Festival prepares to present it’s 9th event from September 27-30, this year’s headline artists include a couple of the acts that might be considered unusual choices. Sydney’s celebrated percussion group Taikoz (pictured above) will be performing its Japanese-inspired taiko drumming repertoire in Quartet mode on Saturday night, and the acclaimed jazz saxophonist/composer Sandy Evans will be presenting her trio on Sunday evening, which includes well-known jazz bassist Brett Hirst and drummer Hamish Stuart.
“But isn’t this supposed to be a classical music festival?” some may ask.
Well yes, but then again it’s always been a bit wider than that.
Founded in 2010 by the late Peter Nance, then President of Camp Creative, the event was originally just called the Bellingen Music Festival, and was dedicated to the promotion and development of musical creativity. With a strong reputation for its innovative program, the Festival has come a long way toward achieving Nance’s original vision of becoming a significant regional music festival in the Australian calendar, presenting high-quality music from differing classical traditions and performed by a diversity of established, emerging and local artists.
Over the years, and partially through the Festival’s growing Fringe program, the event’s repertoire has been successfully widened to include not only the many types of classical music, but also contemporary jazz and world music.
“In past years the Festival has presented marvelous performers like the shakuhachi master Riley Lee, tango group Tangalo and the collaborative Indian-Spanish ensemble Rasa Duende,” says Festival President Rosie Wickert. “Last year’s performers also included the multicultural Tek Tek Ensemble. We aim to make the Festival a truly enjoyable event, recognising that people enjoy different kinds of musical experiences when it comes to ‘fine’ music. To our delight, audiences are growing year by year.”
As for the Festival’s small name change last year, local promoter Seth Jordan explains: “When I joined this event as an Arts/Cultural Festival Consultant in early 2017, via a grant from the Regional Arts Fund, one of my first suggestions was to slightly rename the Festival. The original name was suitable for its early years, but with the rise of Bello Winter Music and other local festivals, continuing to call it the Bellingen Music Festival seemed a bit outdated and didn’t really indicated what types of music were being presented.”
“To their credit, the Festival committee felt that calling it the Bellingen Classical Music Festival was too restrictive, so I suggested just adding the word ‘Fine’ instead, which has become an accepted term in classical circles in recent years, and allows for other related genres to be included,” says Jordan. “The old classically-based MBS network of radio stations – which stood for Music Broadcasting Society – rebranded themselves as ‘Fine Music’ a few years ago, and it’s helped them to establish their own distinct media image. The local festival committee agreed, so in 2017 by simply adding that one small word the event became known as the Bellingen Fine Music Festival.
“While classical music in its many forms will always remain central to what is presented at this festival, by also including other high-quality performers it broadens the potential audience and presents a wider variety of thoroughly excellent musicians to the community. As long as the playing (or singing) is of an exceptionally high standard, it can qualify as Fine Music.”
In the case of Taikoz and Sandy Evans, their own classical/world/jazz credentials speak for themselves.
Taikoz was founded in 1997 by percussionist/Artistic Director Ian Cleworth and shakuhachi (Japanese flute) Grand Master Riley Lee. Cleworth had previously spent 20 years as Principal Percussionist with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and 16 years with the innovative percussion group Synergy.
Over the last two decades, Taikoz has developed an international reputation for vibrant performances that combine dynamic percussive energy with refinement and grace. From the most delicate flute melodies to the thunderous impact of the giant odaiko drum, Taikoz is at once meditative and free-spirited, primal and dramatic.
The multi-award-winning Australian group has regularly toured regionally, nationally and internationally. It has also initiated a number of creative projects, including major collaborative works with most of Australia’s Symphony Orchestras, the Bell Shakespeare Theatre, the South Indian Lingalayam Dance Company, choreographer Meryl Tankard and the renowned Japanese taiko masters Kodo.
Sandy Evans is a graduate of the Jazz Studies course at the NSW Conservatorium of Music, and she also studied in the US, Germany, Hungary and the UK with the assistance of an Australia Council study grant.
During the 1980s/’90s she played with some of the most important groups in Australian jazz, including Great White Noise, The Bruce Cale Orchestra, and the KMA Orchestra, as well as establishing her own groundbreaking ensemble Women & Children First.
With her saxophone-playing husband Tony Gorman Evans also founded the ARIA Award-winning group Clarion Fracture Zone, and became an integral member of folk-jazz group Mara, The catholics, AustraLYSIS, Ten Part Invention and The Australian Art Orchestra.
In 2000 Sandy was seen by a worldwide television audience playing from the roof of the Sydney Opera House at the dawn of the new millennium. And in 2002, her composition ‘Testimony’, about the life and music of legendary sax giant Charlie Parker, was premiered by the Australian Art Orchestra in the Opera House’s Concert Hall as part of the Sydney Festival.
In 2014 she was awarded a PhD from Macquarie University, for her practice-based research into intercultural Indian music, and she visited India courtesy of a Churchill Fellowship. Sandy is currently a lecturer in Jazz at the University of New South Wales.
Article by Seth Jordan
The Taikoz Quartet performs on Saturday 29 September, 7:30pm, Bellingen Memorial Hall.
The Sandy Evans Trio performs on Sunday 30 September, 6:00pm, Bellingen Memorial Hall.
Bookings for all Bellingen Fine Music Festival concerts and workshops from Waterfall Way Information Centre or online from www.bellingenmusicfesival.com.au
If you missed last week’s piece about ‘Blush Opera’ click here