Monday, May 11, 2015


A Quartet of YAFF musicians in the Botanical Gardens 
Photo: Peter Hislop
 2015 Canberra International Music Festival.

Australian National Botanic Gardens. Thursday May 7.

Reviewed by Bill Stephens.

Organisers could not have wished for more perfect weather than that which greeted music lovers as they arrived at the Australian National Botanical Gardens for this magical presentation. Artistic Director, Roland Peelman welcomed the guests and invited them to choose their own paths around the gardens to discover the musical treasures awaiting them.

Those who chose the rainforest gully soon discovered a string quartet of young YAFF instrumentalists engrossed in making sweet music among the sun-dappled foliage.  A little further along, on a landing overlooking the gulley, the unmistakable harmonies of The Song Company singing “Who Stopped The Rain” elicited wry smiles on the faces of those surrounding them, and appreciative applause. 

Caleb Wong 
Photo: Peter Hislop
Resisting the temptation to delay for more of The Song Company offerings, a new discovery beckoned further along the path, where, seated in a secluded lookout, facing out over the gulley, a lone cellist, Caleb Wong, a picture of concentration, floated soulful melodies into the gulley below to the obvious approval of the local bird life who twittered and chirped happily as they went about their business.

Phillip Glass’s “Melody for Saxophone No. 2” received a haunting interpretation from saxophonist, James Nightingale, positioned among a stand of tall shady trees, and a little further along the bluesy sounds of a muted trumpet, heralded the sight of trumpeter, Alex Raupach standing high on a rocky outcrop.

On a nearby pathway, percussionists, Claire Edwardes and Bree van Reyk, intrigued their audiences with the remarkable sounds they extracted from the bewildering array of flower pots, dishes and other paraphernalia surrounding them. Those continuing towards the Red Centre display soon found themselves captivated by the evocative sounds floating across the landscape from Pete Harden’s electric guitar.

The opportunity to hear an illuminating talk from Dr Judy West, saw most converge at the amphitheatre on the eucalypt lawn, where they were able to compare experiences, and have a welcome sit, while Dr. West explained the scientific and inspirational purposes of the Botanical Gardens and their link to the arts. 

Molly Collier-O'Boyle
Photo: Peter Hislop
Then back to the treasure hunt, where, following more sounds of music, led to the discovery of a quartet of YAFF instrumentalists wedged in some tree boughs improvising on bassoon, flute and clarinets, and a delightful violinist, Molly Collier-O’Boyle, playing Irish melodies amongst ferns alone in a deep gully.  As with any treasure hunt, not every treasure was discovered by everyone, but then that was part of the fun of this imaginative and superbly executed event. 


The Song Company

Photo: Peter Hislop

 This review first published in the May 7 digital edition of "CITY NEWS".