April 23 to 26, 2021
Featuring performances by inspiring distinguished Australian ensembles, two world premiere compositions and amazing young local talent it’s a great opportunity to spend 4 autumn days and evenings in the upper Blue Mountains enjoying concerts and workshops presented in Phillips Hall, Blackheath, and the beautiful Campbell Rhododendron Gardens.
classikON spoke with Festival Director Catherine Harker about the upcoming festival to find out more.
classikON: Blackheath is a perfect spot for an Autumnal festival, how did it all come to life and why did you choose 2021?
Catherine H: The idea of a Festival germinated at the beginning of 2020. We, the Management Committee of the Campbell Rhododendron Gardens, were reeling from the December 2019 fires. One third of the 18.3 hectare property was damaged, and it was also beginning to dawn on us that the then-new COVID-19 virus would not be going away in a hurry. This would mean very few, if any, visitors would be travelling to Blackheath. Since our Gardens are managed by volunteers and we depend almost entirely on entrance donations to keep up with the maintenance costs we needed to think of something. “Let’s have a classical music festival,” someone suggested. “It will bring a lot of new folk to the Blue Mountains.” We all agreed it was a great idea.
CoN: It’s true, and strong ticket sales are showing it was also the right idea! But great ideas can often be hard to get off the ground, how did you go about planning?
CH: Well, of course, people did seem to take a step back in the beginning… so I put up my hand to create it. Within a week, as Festival Director, I began compiling a list of possible performers. I wanted to establish a balance, a variety of instruments to create ‘light and shade’, especially for this inaugural event when we were unsure of the preferences of our core audiences. I quickly checked when there were other festivals on (there are a lot!), we couldn’t afford to clash. And so we set the dates, we began to grow, and within six months we had a star-studded list of ensembles and performers. Now I am already planning for 2022.
CoN: Catherine is not wrong there – artists at the Blackheath Chamber Music Festival include Australian Romantic and Classical Orchestra, The Goldner Quartet, FØNIX Ensemble, Arcadia Winds, Tinalley String Quartet, and more, with some concerts being performed in the Rhododendron Gardens themselves.
CoN: With the Festival only a few weeks away people considering travelling to the area will be interested to know – how are you recovering from the 2019 bush fires?
CH: The Monday volunteers in The Campbell Rhododendron Gardens have worked endlessly for many months to plant and clear and restore this beautiful venue. While visitors are flocking back to the mountains, some businesses have taken a hard knock, and we’re hoping this large influx to the festival will revitalise our community.
CoN: Blackheath is indeed a wonderful town situated high in the Blue Mountains, what can you recommend for visitors to the festival – in addition to the wonderful music?
CH: Besides all the restaurants and cafes, there are wonderful galleries, as good as many in Sydney, and a variety of fascinating shops. There is a glass-blowing studio on the other side of the railway line, and two wineries down in the picturesque Megalong Valley, just a short drive away. And of course it goes without saying that Blackheath boasts some spectacularly magnificent lookout sites and walking trails.
CoN: It is also well worth a stroll around the Campbell Rhododendron Gardens, and in fact the festival is presenting two family concerts in the Gardens which are not to be missed.
With so much to offer this festival is selling quickly and some performances are nearing current capacity. It’s a good idea to book now so as not to be disappointed.
There are two very reasonably prices Festival Ticket Packages and individual concert ticket prices range from $10 to $70.
See the full program and ticket options here