Our first full day in Townsville certainly did not disappoint! We woke to birdsong and enjoyed our first view of the surrounding landscape. On top of this, the balcony of our accommodation is close enough to throw a fishing line into the beautiful Ross Creek! After a morning of yoga and vocal/horn warm-ups, we made our way by foot to the Townsville Civic centre; a pleasant 20 minute walk by the creek. Once there, we met the other winter-school musicians comprising of soloists, trios and quartets from all over eastern Australia. After introductions we were briefed about the week ahead as well as the perks of being a part of the Winter-school program, which includes free entry into all the concerts throughout the week performed by an array of outstanding local and international artists. After receiving a festival program and personal lanyards we were asked if anyone was happy to share a piece with the group, so we volunteered. Our performance of Winteregg’s ‘Three City Songs’ was well-received but we realised that performing in the Townsville heat is a bit of an adjustment from the conditions we’ve been playing in for the last few months!
We were joined by one of the piano trios for lunch at a local pub and all of us clicked instantly (as a side note the ‘Soup of the day’ at this pub was cold beer!) Despite this trio being from Canberra we were surprised to find numerous mutual friends between us, it’s a small world in the music world!
We were back to our rehearsal room soon after for our first coaching which was with pianist Benjamin Martin. In the hour we had with Ben he provided lots of great advice about the moods and characters required for the Winteregg movements as well as strategies to achieve these moods. He was friendly and humble but shared a great breadth of musical knowledge as well as some incredible sight-reading skills as he played excerpts of the piano part.
After our lesson we met a very friendly volunteer driver named Damian who was more than happy to give us a lift to the local shops (walking around for long periods of time in the heat is exhausting!) We picked up some groceries and walked home to a magnificent full moon on the horizon.
After a nice home-cooked dinner we headed back into the theatre for the opening night concert. The performances were diverse and brilliant to the point of being inspiring. After an acknowledgment of the traditional owners of the land with a stunning didgeridoo performance, we were treated to a Mendelssohn piano sextet, a beautiful performance by the Camerata of St Johns from Brisbane, and a recital of William Walton’s Façade-An Entertainment for cello, trumpet, saxophone, clarinet, flute, percussion and narration.
The highlight of the night for us was an accordion/violin duo titled Variations on traditional Scottish/Border Folk melodies arranged by James Crabb and played by James Crabb and Ike See. The musicality and charisma of these two players shone through and particularly showed off the capabilities of the accordion which was used for melody, harmony, accompaniment and even percussion! It was impossible not to smile and tap your foot along to this piece.
We had been advised to arrive at the rehearsal rooms at 8.30am to maximise our chances of finding an available room with a piano. We did this and it paid off! After a couple of hours of rehearsing we wandered over to the Civic Theatre for the first ‘Concert Conversations’ performance, where artists share with the audience some interesting background about their pieces before launching into them. As a piano player I had been asked to page turn for pianist and Artistic director of the festival Piers Lane at this concert. The work was a Sonata for piano and violin (transcribed for flute) by Debussy. It was an outstanding performance and I was relieved not to cause any page-turning disasters in the process!