The Orange Chamber Music Festival (OCMF) is a not for profit organisation created by professional musicians with residence in Orange. OCMF is supported by local organisations and businesses as a cultural and tourism initiative that provides a performance platform for established and upcoming artists and ensembles, as well as inviting artists of domestic and international regard. 2021 is the festival’s inaugural year so we wanted to find out more!
In 2019 professional musicians Carmen and Jay Byrnes had a life changing move to the NSW Central West, after a brief stay in surrounding towns such as Mudgee and Millthorpe, they were seduced by the characteristics of Orange. We’ll let Carmen take over the story from here…
‘Orange provides everything a Sydneysider would need, in a gentle yet welcoming and culturally vibrant environment. It was not long after a visit to the area that we found the perfect home, and endless opportunities to create our own path, and at the same time, connect with the local community. The same happened to Lisa and Stefan, also professional musicians, who made the move from the Blue Mountains. Lisa Stewart is a violinist and illustrator, and her husband Stefan Duwe (violist) are both founders of the Acacia Quartet, whilst Jay has been a member of the Nexas Quartet for nearly 20 years. One night, while having dinner together we looked at each other and almost simultaneously realised that… we needed to do a chamber music festival!’
Says Carmen, ‘I have always had a passion for hosting and organising events, having worked previously at the internationally renowned orchestral network of Venezuela, El Sistema. Having completed a masters in Arts Management, I first looked at what was around us, the ceasing of the Huntington Estate Festival in Mudgee, the possibilities, I made a few calls and, in a Venezuelan fashion, within the ‘crowing of the rooster’ the Orange Chamber Music Festival was born.
In the early days of planning we approached the founder of the Huntington Estate Festival, now an Orange local, and the joyful conversation was the encouragement needed to pursue the dream. We will always be grateful for having the opportunity to meet and to get invaluable insight from Bob and Wendy Roberts, back in 2019.’
We asked Carmen how the Festival evolved, what was the decision making process?
‘At first we discussed the artistic possibilities, programs, collaborations and artists that they would like to host (someday, and soon). Lisa and Stefan invited local artists David Shaw and Alina Zborowski to be the link between the ‘newbies’ and the local Conservatorium. We met regularly to discuss various aspects of the emerging Festival over copious amounts of cheese and the most incredible local wine.
We called our meetings ‘cheese board meetings’.
We concluded that we could not do this without incorporating food and wine to the picture, living in the new food mecca of NSW, where hatted restaurants are at our doorsteps, and the region is notorious for its delicate and elegant wines, as well as being full of exciting cafes and other establishments, it’s just bursting with fresh produce. On a visit to our favourite winery cellar door, Swinging Bridge Wines, Jay and I were astonished to learn that the man serving us wine was, in fact, the owner and winemaker. Tom Ward is a powerhouse in the wine community, actively serving as chair of countless boards, including the NSW Wine Industry Association.
It was later, after trying a few different drops that Tom showed interest in OCMF, and wanted to ensure that we were well supported and guided. Having Tom on the board of OCMF is the vote of confidence that we needed to move forward into the future. Other local organisations followed, and together with a fresh and passionate network of talent we think we have created a solid tourism and cultural initiative, that showcases the very best of the region, from artists and art workers, chefs, winemakers and hoteliers.’
The four-day event from April 8 to 11 is designed to encourage overnight visitation and an unforgettable experience for locals and visitors alike.
Each day of the Festival will present an evening concert, commencing with the Opening Gala, featuring all the artists invited for 2021. This event will be live-streamed by award winning Melbourne Digital Concert Hall, with national and international reach. Other concerts will feature artists and ensembles in a variety of settings, including the Orange Regional Conservatorium, the Orange Regional Museum, the Orange Civic Theatre, local pubs and restaurants.
A signature tasting at Swinging Bridge, welcome drinks at Quest Hotel, post concert events at the Union Bank and an indulgent gala dinner at hatted restaurant TONIC in the adjacent village of Millthorpe are just some of the features that Festival Pass holders will enjoy, all included in the Festival Pass.
What about the Artists and Local Talent?
The festival has an emphasis on domestic artists and ensembles plus local young musicians. There’s also a strong focus on charismatic soloists and rising stars at the forefront of OCMF. Carmen explains, ‘We aim to become ‘the alternative’, a more approachable and diverse chamber music event, catering for a greater range of audiences with interest in art music and regional culture.’
‘For OCMF it is also crucial to making a difference in the local scene by presenting relevant artists that would rarely tour regionally, enticing audiences from surrounding towns that are in awe of these opportunities. Free and low cost events will complement the structure of the event, being accessible by local families and casual visitors. With this in mind artists and ensembles will provide free workshops and classes, talks and demonstrations for regional students, to engage with the local community and disadvantaged groups.’
In its inaugural year Orange Chamber Music Festival 2021 will present 2 resident ensembles, 28 domestic artists, artists of international profile and at least 20 local artists, including students and staff of the Orange Regional Conservatorium.
Some of these artists include:
Principal Guest Artist clarinetist Lloyd Van’t Hoff, guest international artists Emily Granger (harp) and Niels Bijl (saxophone), Daniel Rojas pianist and composer, local artists David Shaw (flute) and Rachael Kwa (violin), with the Acacia Quartet and Nexas Quartet as resident ensembles.
All events are listed here
As a cultural-tourism initiative, OCMF have partnered with Orange 360, award winning tourism operator of the Central West, which curated a dedicated page to OCMF 2021.
For the most relevant information of all things Orange and great suggestions go to https://www.orange360.com.au