Australian Festival of Chamber Music

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The Australian Festival of Chamber Music (AFCM) is a ten-day international festival focused on chamber music but also featuring tours of regional and remote Australia, fine food, master classes for musicians and lecture series by international scientists themed on the Great Barrier Reef.[1]

20 to 30 chamber musicians from around the world converge on Townsville, Queensland, each year to perform and teach emerging artists. The festival was founded in July 1991 and has been held annually ever since.[1] It is the largest festival dedicated to chamber music in the southern hemisphere.[2]

Concerts recorded at the Festival are broadcast nationally on ABC Classic FM regularly throughout the following year.

The festival focuses on involving Australian composers and musicians going against contemporary trends in symphony orchestra programming.[3]

The AFCM is presented in partnership with all three levels of government as well as several commercial, tourism, regional development, educational, scientific and media organisations.[4] The festival's patron is Quentin Bryce, Governor of Queensland.[5]


The festival was founded in 1990 for a 1991 premiere by Theodore Kuchar who continued as the artistic director for the next 16 years until 2006. The festival began conservatively focusing on the more contemporary music of the classical and romantic periods, over the first five years Kuchar started inserting works of Bartok, Bloch, Martinu, Shostakovich, expanding the musical depth for enthusiasts while maintaining the popular appeal.[3]

The festival has tried to avoid a perception that it is only there for cultivated southerners, for example in 2005 for the first time the AFCM had a presence at a Cowboys football match and in 2006 increased publicity focusing locally.[3]

In 2007 the AFCM gained a new management and artistic team, with Piers Lane as the new artistic director, Yvette Braithwaite-Bragg as general manager and Chris Smeed as artistic administrator.[2] Lane is a leading international pianist who is based in London;[6] Braithwaite-Bragg brings qualities and expertise from various roles including State Manager, Sales & Marketing Professional, Special Events Manager and Protocol Officer to her role.[2]

The 2007 programme involved vocalists and more variety than previous years to appeal to a broader audience, taking a "lifestyle approach" and focussing on music, wine and food.[7]

New General Manager in 2011[edit]

Sue Hackett was appointed General Manager of the Australian Festival of Chamber Music in 2011. Sue worked as a professional musician for many years, principally in Adelaide and in France. In 1988 she moved to arts administration and worked for ten years as Artists' Department Manager for Opera Australia. In 1999 she returned to Europe where she edited publications and managed press for Wexford Festival Opera for three years before moving to Bologna to set up Canvas Management an international agency managing directors and designers working in theatre and opera. In 2007 she returned to Sydney taking up the position of General Manager of Pacific Opera in 2009.


At the 2006 festival about 10,000 tickets were issued with five concerts sold out,[8] outperforming all previous years and 2005 by 20%; it had pre-sold 1200 tickets for one concert alone (Symphony Under the Stars at Queens Gardens)[9] and had an average audience size of about 750 people. About 50% of audience numbers were from interstate or international guests to Townsville.[10]

Reef Talk[edit]

[1] Since 2002 the Festival has partnered with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMRA) and Australian Institute of Marine Science[1] to present "Reeftalk". In 2006, "Reeftalk"'s special guest was Peter Garrett and all lectures were held at the Townsville Civic Theatre, Townsville's main theatre.[11]


During the festival master classes are held for around 30 music students attending the Winterschool by the artists who also have a full schedule of performances.

Outback Tour[edit]

The Outback Tour was not held in 2011. However, Australian Festival of Chamber Music hope to revive the special event in the near future.

The Outback Tour brought some of the best music in the world to some of the most isolated places in the world. Enthusiastic music lovers, join six musicians (including didgeridoo player William Barton) in a five day tour of Outback Australia, visiting Cloncurry, Ernest Henry Mine, Mount Isa, Normanton and Karumba focusing on fine food and music and masterclasses with hands on experience of the Queensland mining industry and communities. Works included; Peter Sculthorpe – String Quartet No. 9; Philip Glass – String Quartet No. 2 Company; Hardin (aka Moondog) – Synchrony No. 2; Lee – Morango – Like a Tango; Barton – Sacred Song and Hindson – Technologic.[12]

Chefs in the North Dinner[edit]

Held annually in July, the night before the opening of the Australian Festival of Chamber Music, Chefs in the North has become one of the most sought after events in town.

Held on the lawns of Jupiters Townsville under a spectacular marquee, Chefs in the North features a tantalising degustation menu prepared by some of Australia's finest chefs and highlights the best local produce accompanied by fine Australian wines.

Special chamber music performances programmed by Piers Lane feature between courses.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "AFCM Official Webpage – About the Festival – Festival Profile". Archived from the original on 7 January 2007. Retrieved 10 January 2007. 
  2. ^ a b c "Dynamic team gears up". Townsville Bulletin "The Guide". Published 20 November 2006, p. 24
  3. ^ a b c Matthew Westwood: "MATP Festival to tackle new directions". The Australian Features, Published 4 July 2006, p. 14
  4. ^ "AFCM Official Webpage – Support the Festival – Partners". Archived from the original on 7 January 2007. Retrieved 10 January 2007. 
  5. ^ The Courier-Mail, The Vice-Regal. Published 6 July 2006, p. 84
  6. ^ Isis Stuckenschmidt 'New AFCM director cases the joint. Townsville Bulletin, Published 28 October 2006 p. 5
  7. ^ Minikas, Lisa (March 2007). "David Pratt To Hollywood & Back". City Life. p. 17. 
  8. ^ Townsville Sun Australian Festival of Chamber Music roundup. Published 12 July 2006, p. 8
  9. ^ Leonie Johnson: "Music lovers in tune with festival". Townsville Bulletin, Published 10 July 2006 p. 7
  10. ^ Isis Stuckenschmidt: "Festival set to end on right note". Townsville Bulletin, Published 8 July 2006 p. 13
  11. ^ "AFCM Official Webpage – Festival Program – Reef Talk". Retrieved 10 January 2007. [dead link]
  12. ^ "AFCM Official Webpage – Festival Program – The Outback Tour". Retrieved 11 January 2007. [dead link]

Coordinates: 19°15′27.13″S 146°49′04.23″E / 19.2575361°S 146.8178417°E / -19.2575361; 146.8178417