Now in its 7th year, the Festival of Voices is bigger and better than ever. This unique winter festival, held in the beautiful southern Tasmanian city of Hobart, runs from July 6-10, celebrating the beauty of the human voice and the power of song. With over 10,000 attendees including singers, audience members, and musicians the festival encompasses the warmth, diversity, and generosity of the local population as well as being framed by the iconic beauty of snow-tipped mountains, untouched heritage buildings and a beautiful harbour.
In an interview with Kris Stewart, Festival Director (on right), the picture of the 2011 Festival was painted in extraordinary colour with the festival undergoing a significant period of growth in the last year. This year, the array of workshops and concerts (both free and for a nominal fee) truly has something for everyone. The festival opens on Wednesday the 6th of July at Hobart’s newest icon MONA (the Museum of Old and New Art), a $75 million private art collection in a subterranean architectural wonderland. As a recent visitor, the owner’s eclectic tastes have to be seen to be believed. Being Australia’s largest collection it is a must see and, along with vocal performances by festival artists, the opening night will feature ghost stories written by a number of authors for the festival and performed by Michael Caton (Packed to the Rafters, The Castle).
This is the first time musical theatre has been a feature of the festival and Kris reports the response to workshops with Peter Cousens and Kellie Dickerson from the Tasmanian theatre community has been great. Peter is well known for his performances in The Phantom of the Opera, Miss Saigon and Les Misèrables, and Kellie arrives at the festival fresh from conducting Dr Zhivago in Melbourne and is perhaps best known for her work as Musical Director for Wicked. The pair are offering both a group work shop and soloist master class (the latter has already sold out!) as well as combining forces with Matthew Robinson (My Fair Lady, Mamma Mia) in a concert on Thursday the 7th of July entitled Musical Theatre Misbehaving. Kris believes the addition of musical theatre will not only entice a new breed of festival goer but also facilitate talent and ambitions for auditions and careers for Tasmanian performers as well as the chance for feedback from some of the best. The lack of opportunities for the Tasmanian musical theatre community to learn from mainland performers and teachers is a continuing issue and with the backing of the Festival of Voices, people can expect more of these workshops to be available in the years to come.
Gospel music is a strong force in Hobart with Tasmania’s own Southern Gospel Choir joining forces with Academy Award-winning gospel performer and Grammy Award-winning songwriter Myron Butler. A three-day workshop from Wednesday the 6th of July until the 8th of July will prepare the massed choir for the ‘Brighter Day’ performance on the Friday night – surely an event not to be missed.
This year, the festival boasts not one but two free bonfire Big Sing events in Salamanca Place with performances from choirs, groups, and featuring a special after party acoustic session with David Campbell on Saturday the 9th of July ($49 + booking fee).
Having personally attended the festival for three years as a performer, audience member, and workshop goer I can say with confidence that this is a true celebration of voice and song and the passion of the artists, performers, and attendees is palpable. The air is electric with energy from hundreds of voices combining, body percussion, dancing, a cappella and many other instruments (some of which I never knew existed!).
Kris is expecting the festival to continue to grow and expand with the possibility of touring concerts and workshops around the state and a longer duration. The atmosphere will be filled with energy, diversity and beautiful music and the program for this year certainly offers something for everyone’s taste for performers, musicians and lovers of all things musical both young and old. What better way to celebrate winter than here in Tasmania with great entertainment, delicious local cuisine and a glass of red by the bonfire?
For details on tickets, workshops, concerts and the festival itself visit: http://www.festivalofvoices.com