15 November 2007
Rocking the Boat
The 2007 Flametree Festival
The 2007 Flametree Festival, directed by Heidi Jones and James Beck, was recently held (13-14 October 2007) at Bundanon – Arthur and Yvonne Boyd’s ‘living arts centre’ on the South Coast of NSW. Percussionist Claire Edwardes, one of the performers at the Festival, described the event as a ‘once in a lifetime experience’. Here she reports:
I am still on a bit of a high from my recent ‘Flametree experience’ – what a week! My involvement was as soloist in the orchestral concert and one of the performers in the Junk Percussion concert.
On James Beck’s suggestion, I arranged one of the Bach harpsichord/violin concertos for marimba to perform in the orchestral concert. Having never performed a ‘classical’ concerto before, I found performing this work to be a new – yet hugely rewarding – experience. The second concerto on the program was a more typical percussion concerto – written by the ex-pat Australian composer Paul Sarcich (who now lives in London). I was in my element with this piece: primal drumming, and jazz-style vibraphone licks and melodies.
Having ‘blu-tacked’ down the score, my performance of the Bach piece went along without a hitch and was very well received by the audience (unexpectedly so). Playing marimba outdoors is a challenge because it is less resonant, and I did feel that the slower second movement may have suffered slightly as a result, although I was very happy with the arrangement of the faster movements. The work by Sarcich was last on the program (following beautiful renditions of Grieg and Britten), and it felt like the perfect ending to a varied and unusual concert program.
The orchestra itself was made up of professionals from around Sydney and one from Perth who doubled as a conductor in the work by Sarcich. The leader Alice Evans (from the Australian Chamber Orchestra) was a pleasure to work with and made the whole process glide along seamlessly – her inherent calm emanating onto myself and all the other musicians. The support I felt from the musicians and the directors was sincere and heartfelt, which added to the feeling of a once in a lifetime experience.
The Junk Percussion concert was held on the Sunday in the amazing rock ampitheatre at Bundanon – part of the Bundanon Trust. This was presented with fellow Ensemble Offspring members Bree van Reyk (percussion) and Veronique Serret (violin). I programmed a mixture of works for unspecified instrumentation (we used junk found around the homestead) and works for unusual instruments (eg. flower pots, waterphone, tam tams, and drums).
I know that Heidi and James wanted to ‘rock the boat’ with the programming of their second Flametree Festival, and I feel they did this perfectly – the feedback from audiences was just astounding. People were blown away by the festival, and I believe that this was partially due to the Festival’s setting – the beautiful surroundings made for such a unique listening experience. After the Junk Percussion concert, the audience reacted with comments such as ‘I will remember this on my deathbed’ and ‘I feel so inspired’. Even the children in the audience sat still for the duration of the 1 hour event, which says a lot. I think it’s interesting how the venue of a concert can really influence the accessibility of a concert program.
The majority of our rehearsals for the concerts were held at the Riversdale property – the other property in the Bundanon Trust. Despite having to compete with the natural elements, these rehearsals were relaxed, focused and very fruitful, again, largely because of the beautiful setting. For those who have never been to the South Coast of NSW, I urge you to visit – there is something very special about it.
© Australian Music Centre (2007) — Permission must be obtained from the AMC if you wish to reproduce this article either online or in print.
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