Tango at Stradbroke Chamber Music Festival 2015

North Stradbroke

North Stradbroke

Late in July in torrential rain, some of Australia and Europe’s most celebrated classical musicians descended on North Stradbroke Island to begin rehearsals for an unusual and highly regarded Queensland music event, the Stradbroke Chamber Music Festival.

Artistic Director and founder, violinist Rachel Smith is currently a violinist with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. Her festival draws music lovers from the island population and mainland to hear world class chamber concerts in the most glorious settings. Many of the audience stayed for the entire series which began on Thursday with an interactive Dunwich Public School concert conducted by Berlin based Paul Hankinson.

Musicians this year included Cyril Garac, Europe’s leading tango violinist, violinists Rachel Smith and Sophie Rowell, clarinettist  Irit Silver, cellists Eric de Wit and Louise King, violist Caroline Henbest, double bassist Marian Heckenberg, and pianists Paul Hankinson and Liam Viney. They played works by Bloch, Bridge, Chausson,  Bach, Haydn, Sculthorpe, Schubert, Haydn, Dvorak. A special new work by Paul Hankinson for piano and string quartet headlined the last concert which included Bartok, Ravel, Stravinsky, Cassado, Prokofiev and Casals.

I was invited to play bandoneon with Cyril and colleagues in the tango ensemble for the sold out Saturday night concert which was held in the Point Lookout Surf Club overlooking Main Beach. We were joined by tango dancers Madonna and Bernard King for an evening of Argentine tango classics, quirky Polish tangos, musical risk taking, anecdotes and red wine.

Main Beach from the tango stage

Main Beach from our tango stage

We strolled the Gorge walk in the sunshine when it emerged,  as the concerts were underway on Friday, ate seafood at Fishes and the Stradbroke pub, visited Amity Point and saw pods of whales, dolphins and turtles almost everywhere off the coast. Added to the pleasure of playing tango with new friends and the generous hospitality of the island hosts, the Stradbroke Chamber Music Festival became an experience I’ll never forget. Thank you and congratulations Rachel Smith on your inspirational vision!