The Newcastle Music Festival has hosted extraordinary string players and singers during this week, and the celebration of live classical music continues through August 14.
On Saturday morning at Christ Church Cathedral, young string players from the region vie for scholarship prizes from Music Teachers' Association Newcastle Branch, and in the afternoon, nine young pianists compete at Adamstown Uniting Church.
The public is welcome to be present in the audience for these competitions and admission is free.
Each scholarship celebrates a great former music teacher from the region.
On Saturday night at Adamstown Uniting Church will hear the stamp of heels, and the clack of castanets to flamenco guitar and dancing, by Paco Lara and Deya Miranda Giner, in a sold-out concert.
On Sunday afternoon, Christ Church Cathedral hosts the Festival Choir, comprising voices from several choirs in Newcastle. The choir is conducted by David Banney, with soloists, the crystalline voice of local soprano Esther Junker, and well-known baritone Christopher Allan.
They will perform Fauré's Requiem, and also the world premiere of David Banney's Mass for Peace (Missa Pace). This work sets the ancient texts of the Latin Mass, and new texts by Naomi Johnson, to music for this saddened age. Accompanying them are Peter Guy on the cathedral organ, and the young players of Newcastle Senior Strings.
On Thursday night, August 11, the concert description sounds like something you would see in one of the great concert halls of Europe or New York. Two world premieres, a world class soprano, works by composers as diverse as Hildegard of Bingen and John Cage, and an acclaimed pianist/composer with scores of performances who is also artistic director of a chamber opera group. But it's not Carnegie Hall or Albert Hall: it's Adamstown Uniting Church, and Sydney-based singer Anna Fraser and pianist Jack Symonds.
The first world premiere is for Toasting Mother Earth by local composer Ross Fiddes and poet Derek Dowding, There is a pre-concert talk by Fiddes and Dowding, and environmental philosopher Glenn Albrecht.
The second world premiere is Jack Symond's work for piano Guardare, meravigliarsi... 5 Nocturnes for Solo Piano.
Fraser and Symonds have curated a concert of brilliant complementary works, around the theme of love of and admiration for our home, the Earth. An unaccompanied chant from the 10th century starts the concert, followed by a work written nearly 1000 years later, again by a remarkable woman, Sofia Gubaidulina, a highly awarded Russian composer, now over 90 years old, who has made Hamburg in Germany her home for many years.
Gubaidulina's work is inspired by Hildegard of Bingen, and Anna Fraser is a worthy inheritor and presenter of the songs of both these amazing women.
The talk is at 6.50pm and the concert starts at 7.30.
Women composers feature prominently in this concert, as they have in all previous festivals. Apart from Hildegard and Gubaidulina, Fraser sings a work by contemporary Australian composer Anne Cawrse, and songs by the French composer Lili Boulanger, whose life was tragically cut short by chronic illness. Her brief compositional output resulted in her winning the Prix de Rome award, a much-prized tribute for composition.
Pianist Grace Kim and cellist Teije Hylkema visit Newcastle on Friday night, August 12, to perform Rachmaninov with a Cello. The concert features solo works for cello, including Bach's first cello suite played by Teije, and the world premiere of a new work for solo cello by local composer Ross Fiddes, Threnody. Grace and Kim then combine to present one of Rachmaninov's great works, the Sonata for Cello and Piano. Rachmaninov himself did not think of the work as a sonata for cello, but instead as a collaborative work for both instruments, and the artistry and technical brilliance of Grace and Teije will be fully demonstrated.
The Cathedral will rock on Saturday night, August 13, with singer Grace Knight and her trio, supported by the Christ Church Camerata Quartet.
The fifth Newcastle Music Festival concludes on Sunday, August 14, with Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez, performed by Andrew Blanch with the Christ Church Camerata, a fitting work to celebrate what has already been an inspiring festival of live music, of the classical kind.
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