Festival provides a core sample of creative hothouse of a city
Martin Buzacott, The Australian, Australia - May 14th, 2012
Crossbows: A Festival of Music for Small Ensembles.
Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University Brisbane, May 10-13
AND this year’s Friendly Neighbour Award goes to the Queensland Conservatorium of Music, for throwing a 70-concert party celebrating the arrival of the ABC and QSO on to Brisbane’s South Bank Parklands, despite the new performance spaces not having been built yet.
Instead of the housewarming without the house, a demountable “ABC Stage” was erected outside the Con and on a glorious autumn morning, festival director Huib Schippers played ragas on his sitar for passers-by.
Inside, the New Zealand String Quartet tore into Beethoven, while students from the Aboriginal Centre for the Performing Arts warmed up for an afternoon concert that was part Fame-school showcase and part revivalist meeting.
It’s times like this you have to love living in Brisbane.
Nevertheless, this cultural Field of Dreams could use a little more work on the if-you-build-it-they-will-come bit.
A magnificent performance of modern modal music by Con students and QSO professionals saw the players on stage outnumbering the audience by a ratio of 4:3. Internationally renowned forte-pianist Bart van Oort gave an excellent recital for not quite 30 people, and even four-time ARIA winner Katie Noonan, in great voice, with Elixir didn’t fill the smallish recital hall where she once sang as a student.
No one, though, could doubt the potential of this event once the ABC’s facilities for live concert presentation become operational, and when enthusiasm is balanced by more considered strategies as to timing and audience generation. Even in its initial madcap form, there was still plenty of quality to satisfy every taste.
Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians on opening night saw Conservatorium students giving the minimalist masterpiece a red-hot crack, while William Barton playing his original chamber music among the paperbarks of the Con’s internal courtyard was a sublime meditation on country.
Outside on the ABC Stage, Emma Dean was fabulous in the kind of kooky-cabaret style pioneered by the Dresden Dolls, while inside, Topology joined with Clocked Out in a performance of Above Ground, which sounds on first hearing to be Robert Davidson’s best piece.
Ultimately, an interstate visitor might marvel at Crossbows’ defiant eclecticism and occasional impracticality and be left in no doubt that it could only have emerged in a creative hothouse such as Brisbane.