IF music be the food of love, as Shakespeare declared, then Newcastle has been enjoying a feast for the past week. And the banquet of melody and rhythm isn't over yet.
Music lovers have been enthralled by the performances staged for the 2019 Newcastle Music Festival. In turn, the festival's organisers have been thrilled with the audience numbers.
According to Ross Fiddes, the festival's co-artistic director, more than half of the 33 events have been sold out.
"The numbers have been greater than they've ever been," Fiddes says of the audiences for the fourth annual festival. "We've had people coming from Melbourne and Tamworth to attend events."
The music festival has been as diverse as the city that hosts it. From big band swing to opera and classical guitar recitals, performed by about 350 musicians and singers, the festival has explored a wide range of genres.
Some of the performances have been opening both eyes and ears, mixing music with pictures at the Newcastle and Maitland art galleries.
Other events have been designed to tantalise the tastebuds as well as the ears, with a series of "Music on a Plate" concerts, with performances in cafes and Christ Church Cathedral. Ross Fiddes says those concerts have been very popular.
The festival has also staged concerts aimed at breaking down barriers between performers and audience members. A Celebration of Abilities involved performers with special needs and disabilities.
The Cumulus Trio staged a sensory concert, so that those with special needs could enjoy the music.
"The artists were really pleased, especially with the way children and adults took to it," says Fiddes of the sensory concert.
An audience member, a teenager with autism named Ben, later wrote to the co-artistic director, telling him, "I liked all the recital pieces, especially the Bizet music. I liked the sound of the rhythm on cello."
If musicians are like family, the festival has shown that is sometimes literally the case. Among the most popular concerts have been those featuring the city's prodigal musical daughter, soprano Miriam Allan, performing with her pianist and conductor father, Christopher Allan.
With the 2019 festival still reverberating through the city, the organisers are already planning for next year.
"A festival such as this has been needed for a long time," Ross Fiddes says. "The fact we've been providing a diverse range of music, Newcastle seems to be more and more embracing of it, which we think is wonderful."
Saturday, August 17
Piano Scholarships Competition, 10am, Harold Lobb Hall, Newcastle Conservatorium
You, Me & The Wide Open Sky (Newcastle University Choir), 3pm, Christ Church Cathedral featuring Newcastle University Choir, Sally Walker (flute) and Erin Sweetman (piano). The choir presents a concert of Australian works, including Grandidge, McCall, Walker and others and featuring the premiere of commissioned work, Magic Voices, by Elena Kats-Chernin.
New Constellations, Australian Romantic & Classical Orchestra, 7pm, Harold Lobb Hall, Newcastle Conservatorium
Sunday, August 18
Festival Finale, 2.30pm, Christ Church Cathedral, featuring Deborah Humble (mezzo soprano), Festival Strings, Christ Church Camerata, Newcastle Strings.