Arts / Artistic director plays a different tune

Four Winds Music Festival James Crabb… aiming to achieve “a nice balance of musical styles, ensuring that the musicians are at their best”.

“I am interested in musicians who are curious,” the director of the Four Winds Music Festival James Crabb tells “CityNews”.

He’s pretty curious himself. An internationally celebrated accordion artist originally from Dundee, Scotland, Crabb moved to Sydney in 2010 with his Australian musician wife and two young sons.

Now as a director, he’s learning how to play to a different tune as he puts together 60 artists and 10 ensembles for 26 performances at 10 locations over Easter next year.

Crabb and his team from the festival were in town to unveil their program to the many keen Canberrans who make Barragga Bay, Bermagui, their prime destination over Easter every second year.

With predecessors at the helm such as Chris Latham and Paul Kildea, both of whom had strong Canberra connections, it’s become a must for ACT music lovers. But as Crabb explains, it’s just as important to engage the immediate Bermagui community, too.

There is no chemical formula for putting together a music festival, he says, but he’s looking for one.

“First you set the foundation around one or two core pieces and musicians, then themes start to appear, then you put in smaller elements – then the chemistry is solved.”

His aim is to achieve “a nice balance of musical styles, ensuring that the musicians are at their best”.

And to that end he has engaged British violinist Jack Liebeck, Israeli flautist Ariel Zuckermann, soprano Emma Pearson, pianists Tamara-Anna Cislowska and Ian Munro, Canberra region harpist Alice Giles, ANU graduate guitarist Aleksandr Tsiboulski, the Goldner String Quartet, The Song Company, Speak Percussion and the Australian Brass Quintet.

By luck, Jessie Lloyd’s “Mission Songs Project”, which “CityNews”  featured on its cover last Easter, will be in the neighbourhood, too.

He is particularly excited about a music theatre piece, “Sideshow Alley”, a “weird” music-hall event to be held three times on the Saturday in the Windsong Pavilion, complete with seven musical theatre works performed by nine of the guest artists, stage lighting and some surprises, narrated by Guy Noble.

Crabb will perform in several concerts himself at the Windsong Pavilion, the Sound Shell and in one of the elegant house concerts, which have now become a feature of the event. It is not an ego thing and he says he is supported by his board, “so the audience will know who I am”.

As an exponent of the accordion, a close relative of the Argentine bandoneon, there will be a South American influence, as part of which he will perform Astor Piazzolla’s Bandoneon Concerto “Aconcagua”. But the Latin piece de resistance will be “Ayre,” by South American composer Osvaldo Golijov, based on folk tunes from the Middle East and Mediterranean and featuring the voice of Emma Pearson, who will sing in 11 languages.

Working in perfect harmony with Four Winds CEO, David Francis, he deplores the fact that “a lot of people I talk to don’t even know where Bermagui is” and has devised a kind of musical taster to be held on the Bermagui Oval. As well, he has set up a special program for aspiring young musicians, and all the events in the big Sound Shell will be free to under 16s.

For 2018 he is determined to make the Yuin Aboriginal community’s welcome-to-country closely linked to music and says: “It’s a fine line to strike the right balance, not just do a two-minute thing”.

Although Crabb lives in Sydney and tears around the world on tour, he uses any excuse to travel to Bermagui, saying: “I get very inspired when I’m down there… thank goodness it’s still unspoiled, did you know it’s the least-inhabited, temperate-climate accessible region in the world?”

Four Winds 2018 Easter Festival, Barragga Bay, March 28-April 1. Early bird tickets on sale along with the new the Four Winds Access Pass at fourwinds.com.au or 6493 3414.

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