A magical mystery tour of music launched the Canberra International Music Festival’s 2023 program as artistic director Roland Peelman revealed “an enchanted forest of musical imagination”, assembled around the theme of The Child Within.
Twenty-eight concerts with 150 Australian and international artists are on offer, showcasing the festival’s unique mix of musical excellence and innovation at the highest level.
The launch at Verity Lane – one of the major venues for the festival – illustrated the festival’s wide reach. Canberra cellist James Munro performed his own composition, the Luminescence children’s choir sparkled and African beats thrummed from one of the many stages.
The 2023 festival awaits British superstars the Brodsky Quartet, one of the UK’s cultural treasures and storied collaborators with the likes of Elvis Costello on his album The Juliet Letters.
They’ll play Bach and Schubert with William Barton, the didgeridoo master who has a growing national reputation and recently appeared at the Edinburgh Festival.
With Peelman always mindful of the Canberra event’s commitment to First Nations, the festival also features blues supremo and longtime activist Marlene Cummins and the Djilama Yilaga Choir from Yuin Country.
They’ll perform with the Woden Valley Youth Choir and be part of the Welcome to Country at the National Arboretum, sharing the space with Canberra performance stars The Australian Dance Party.
The collaboration also marks Australian Dance Week and celebrates a defining sense of place about many of the festival’s key events.
In recognition of cataclysmic events of the past few years, the festival will also premiere ‘Eden Ablaze’, written by renowned broadcaster and composer Andrew Ford during the 2019 Black Summer.
With growing ties between the Canberra International Music Festival (CIMF) and Australian National University’s School of Music, Ford will also feature in an exploration of Hungarian composer Gyorgi Ligeti’s music for film, dance and theatre. This includes the legendary and haunting theme composed for 2001 Space Odyssey.
Later in the festival, the children’s choir will perform Benjamin Britten’s “Children’s Crusade”, the story of 55 children orphaned at the outbreak of war in Poland.
France’s energetic and highly acclaimed Quatuor Van Kuijk returns with the assistance of the French government and CIMF favourite, the Australian Hayden Ensemble, will reflect the festival’s themes with an opening concert about families, friends and musical ties, “The Mozarts, the Haydns & the Bear”.
The festival’s central venue is the acoustically perfect Fitters’ Workshop in Kingston. But venues including Verity Lane, Albert Hall, the ANU and Drill Hall Gallery will echo with music, while the High Court makes a welcome return to host James Wannan playing Bach.
The Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture will host the first performance since 1941 of the Dunera Mass. Oswald von Wolkenstein, one of the youngest of the Dunera Boys, kept a folder of music written by Mass-Peter Myer on the ship and performed at the Hay internment camp in 1941.
This year’s breakfast series focuses on French music, from harpsichords to brass, with each event featuring a half-hour performance followed by conversations with leading artists and composers from the festival.
The most recent festival focused strongly on the Ukraine only a week after the outbreak of war. The 2023 program will feature pianist Alexander Gavrylyuk and Andrew Goodwin singing Ukrainian composer Silvestrov’s “Silent Songs” by candlelight, plus pianist Sonya Lifschitz at the National Gallery of Australia (NGA).
Mr Peelman hopes audiences take a certain “freshness and a sense of discovery” from the annual festival.
“I’ve always loved people to hear music, as if they’re hearing it for the first time without any preconceived ideas. That’s what The Child Within actually alludes to,” he said.
“After all the years with COVID, where we couldn’t quite go out like we used to, when we couldn’t attend live performances, it’s nice to come back to this in a new way, a bit like a child.”
Tickets are now on sale for the 2023 Canberra International Music Festival. To find out more about the program and secure your tickets, visit CIMF.