Countdown to CresFest…

March 15th, 2024Countdown to CresFest…

CresFest 2024 will be the third time around for the small Goldfields community of Creswick.
Creswick Flood Opera. Image: Supplied.

CresFest 2024 will be the third time around for the small Goldfields community of Creswick.

This folk and roots music festival is earning a reputation for punching above its weight, with imaginative programming and a can-do attitude.

In 2024, the bar will be raised even higher with the inclusion of an original opera written by staff and students of the University of Melbourne’s Master of Opera program, plus a performance by a string orchestra backing well-known local crooner Archer Shepherd, in arrangements by Finnish-Australian composer Erkki Veltheim.

“It really comes back to community,” said director and founder Judy Turner, “with the opera and the chamber players – it’s all about bringing local issues and local people to the fore. And getting together with like-minded people, wherever they are from, whatever their musical background, is what makes the magic happen. ”

Creswick Flood Opera

In August 2023, Professor Jane Davidson, Head of Opera at the Conservatorium, University of Melbourne, brought a group of students to meet locals at the Creswick Neighbourhood Centre. Interviewed in her Southbank office, Professor Davidson was full of enthusiasm for the Flood Opera project, and how it has opened opportunities for her young students.

“We came to CresFest 2023,” Professor Davidson said, “just for the experience of playing out of town, and we were blown away by the vibrancy of the local music scene. We got talking about the devastating floods of the year before, and the idea grew that we, as musicians, could do something to shine a light on the impact of such climate events on a small community: we could make it personal, bring out the emotion through our music.”

Enter Pat Tacey (Hepburn Shire Citizen of the Year 2023) and the Creswick Lions, and the community was involved. After a day spent interviewing local residents whose lives were flood impacted, the group went back to Melbourne to create their work.

Presenting it in ‘draft’ form at the Clunes Town Hall for a Seniors Festival audience in October 2023 was so impactful that the team decided to bring the full opera back to CresFest 2024.

“This will be the first time people can hear our opera in Creswick, and we are really thrilled to be able to present it free for the community, thanks to Creswick Woollen Mills,” said Professor Davidson.

In addition to the Flood Opera, CresFest recognises the anguish of community members affected by the floods of 2022 in a podcast series This CresFest World. Listeners can find three episodes on the floods and listen to excerpts of the opera here.

CresFest invites all locals to attend the free performance on Saturday, April 6 at 2.30pm at the Creswick Woollen Mills, Railway Parade, Creswick. Special thanks go to the residents who shared their stories for this project: Adriana (Teeny) Cunnington, Terry Cunnington, Mark Shalless, Pauline Stapleton, Bernie Tacey (Flynn), Pat Tacey and Ellie van Oirschot.

Archer and the Hepburn Players

Collaborations between popular artists and classical players are well established, almost the norm these days, and after a successful partnering with Tibetan musician Tenzin Choegyal at CresFest 2023, the Hepburn Players (pictured below and led by Daylesford harpsichordist Andrew Welsh) are thrilled to be back on stage, this time supporting Archer.

“Archer’s music is timeless,” says Ms Turner, also a viola player with the group, “and these string arrangements by the wonderful Erkki Veltheim will give his lyrics a chance to really shine. As community players we jump at the chance to play such sophisticated parts, supporting a truly international singer from our own region.”

The group was formed by Andrew Welsh and Judy Turner before the pandemic, with many lost opportunities over the lockdown years. Since the re-opening, they have steamed ahead, performing at community events at Daylesford Anglican Church, Creswick Art Shows, Newlyn Mechanics Institute, Daylesford Town Hall, Creswick Woollen Mills, and at CresFest 2023.

To see the Hepburn Players with Archer at Creswick Town Hall on Saturday, April 6 you need to have a festival pass. Tickets and the full program are available now at https://cresfest.com.au/

More on the festival

Now in its third iteration, CresFest has appointed Ballarat superstar Stella Savy as Associate Artistic Director.

“Stella brings a wealth of knowledge of the music industry and networks across a broad range of genres, especially deep roots in African and other world musics,” says Judy. “This year there will be dancing in the streets when Sydney band Chutney brings its exciting brand of klezmer music to Creswick.”

Stella said the festival was bringing artists from Canada, New Zealand, Argentina and the UK – the strongest international contingent yet presented.

“And along with that we have a truly national showcase of the best acoustic acts in our folk and roots genre – there’s Gina Williams and Guy Ghouse from WA, Gosti from QLD, The Cherry Pickers from SA, Spooky Men’s Chorale and Chutney from NSW and Super Rats from the ACT.”

In addition to four concert stages running from Friday night April 5 to Sunday evening April 7, CresFest will present three new ‘zones’ in 2024. KidsOwn KidZone is where puppet shows and plays meet circus skills and marimbas. Street Zone has acts coming from across Victoria to create fun in the streets.

There’s a magician – Cath Jamison – from Hepburn Springs, a kids circus expert – Luth Wolff – from Melbourne, and an acrobat – Malachi Frost – from SA, bringing high-speed juggling a 10-foot pole and a giant flyswatter, and finally Doc Andrew, all the way from Dallas, Texas, will bring his sleight-of hand and trickery.

With the ChoirZone, across the whole of Saturday community choirs will sing their hearts out on the steps of Creswick’s charming old post office. So, as well as the established choirs, you can come along with your festival ticket and join the pop-up Festival Choir.

The former Creswick Courthouse will once again host a series of fascinating conversations presented by First Nations artists Gina Williams (WA) and Trudy Fatnowna Edgeley (Ballarat) to discussion of pre colonial land management practices with famed historians Professor Bill Gammage and Professor Barry Golding.

Hosts Cate Kennedy and James Fremantle will talk with visiting artists about food, fishing, family, fame and much more.

CresFest 2024 is once again partnering with a range of visual artists to ensure there’s a feast for the eyes as well as the ears. And then, of course, at the heart of it all is community, with six Creswick groups taking part on stage, in collaborations and mashups across the weekend.

“The point of all this,” says Stella, “is to create a musical legacy for the community, where people get a chance to not only see and hear great visiting acts but also to learn from and play alongside them.”

Links: www.cresfest.com.au/program | www.cresfest.com.au/tickets/

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