Canberra musicians at home in highland festival

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Acacia… performing three concerts at the Bowral Autumn Music Festival.  Photo: Chris Donaldson

A BOUTIQUE music festival amid the autumn leaves of the Southern Highlands is coming up in historic St Jude’s Church, Bowral, and Canberra artists have a strong presence.

Taking in more than 400 years of music, the thirteenth Bowral Autumn Music Festival will showcase instruments and music from the Renaissance to the Romantic era alongside a selection of new Australian compositions.

Central to the event will be the Acacia Quartet as ensemble in residence – Myee Clohessy and Lisa Stewart on violins, Stefan Duwe on viola and Anna Martin-Scrase on cello.

They’ll perform three concerts and also, on the eve of the event, join Melbourne pianist Stefan Cassomenos, second grand prize winner of the International Telekom Beethoven Piano Competition in Bonn, in an open rehearsal of commissioned composer Alice Chance’s new string quartet composition “Sundried”, which will enjoy its world premiere the next night.

“Pretty cool,” is how festival artistic director Myee Clohessy describes this plan to involve local students and their teachers.

Clohessy says her choice of programming reflects the natural contrasts in the Highlands, with cultivated European gardens, oak trees and maples surrounded by natural bushland. These will be paralleled in European masterworks by Mendelssohn, Chopin, Dvorak, Elgar, Liszt, Schubert, Beethoven and Bach, and new Australian music by Alice Chance, Nigel Westlake, Sally Greenaway, Robert Davidson, Maria Grenfell, Wade Gregory and Rick Alexander.

Instrumentalists from the late Richard Gill’s Australian Romantic & Classical Orchestra will be in the concert line-up, along with organist David Drury, the Australian Baroque Brass, the Geist String Quartet, violinist Marcus Michelsen and organist Titus Grenyer.

The Canberra presence is notable. Classical guitarist, Matt Withers, will join the Acacia Quartet for the official launch of their new joint album “Imaginations”, featuring the prize-winning compositions from the 2018 Matt Withers’ Australian Composition Competition.

On the quirkier side, Canberra composer Sally Greenaway’s work “Da Vinci’s Apprentice”, with a script by ACT writers Paul Bissett and Catherine Prosser, introduces Roberta, a talented girl living in 16th century Italy, who dreams of becoming an apprentice to Leonardo da Vinci in a children’s show featuring actor/singer Brittanie Shipway, Jenny Eriksson on viola da gamba, John Foster on cornetto and Shaun Ng on theorbo.

A festival service at 10am on Sunday, March 31 will feature the augmented St Jude’s Singers performing liturgical works by Benjamin Britten and movements from three Mendelssohn sonatas will be performed throughout the festival by St Jude’s organist Allan Beavis.

The grand finale will see the Acacia Quartet and others join the Southern Highlands Symphony Orchestra to perform Mozart, Elgar and Holst.

2019 Bowral Autumn Music Festival, Friday, March 29-Sunday, March 31. Book at


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