After a cool and misty start for the Welcome to Country smoking ceremony it didn’t take long for the Four Winds Festival to catapult the audience headlong into the Four Winds Rap, performed by Warren Foster Jnr. The rap (Look, Listen, Nylarga, hear the sound of the voice, hear the sound of the birds) was developed with Radical Son’s David Leha working with the Yuin people. By 9.45 we had visited three continents as exquisite music on the flute and the Chinese Erhu emerged mysteriously from the bushes, and then we moved onto to a piece perfectly suited to outdoor playing – Dvorak’s Wind Serenade. With it came the sun.

The 25th anniversary was celebrated with readings from the late Neilma Gantner’s beautifully observed accounts of moving to Barragga Bay some thirty-five years ago, accompanied by a Sculthorpe String Quartet and a moving tribute to Neilma by her sister Marigold Southey who read John Masefield’s Sea Fever.

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Festival goers soaked up the atmosphere, and the strong sense of community, Bermagui is a small town that does big things. The site delivered as always, with a flock of larrikeets flying over in the middle of the Ravel String Quartet, giving a few audience members a moment to reflect that the Navarra Quartet had come all the way from the UK to play in the middle of the bush accompanied by the wildlife.

The galahs had better timing as a flock squeaked by in the silence between movements in the Wind Serenade, while a black cockatoo tried to compete with the brass. But it all added to the sense of Four Winds being a special place to play music.

Artistic director and clarinet player Paul Dean had asked James Ledger to explain the piece he has composed to be world premiered tomorrow, using a small orchestra to demonstrate what he had written and why. The music, called the Natural Church is about night and the bush and the image in his mind is the arch made by trees as he drove along a country road at night. Paul Dean has committed to playing 25% Australian music in this festival, and true to his word intriguing works by Paul Stanhope and Peter Sculthorpe were played today.

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Taikoz made a welcome return, the athletic drummers beating out an incredible rhythm on the giant Japanese drums, the smallest drummer, a woman, having to stand on a platform to reach her drum, but she beat no less loud because of it.

The last extraordinary piece by HK Gruber, Frankenstein, is demonic and ghoulish and fun, and deciding to perform it probably reflects the artistic director’s strong sense of humour. Brilliantly sung and presented by the multi-voiced Jason Barry Smith, baritone and master of everything, it was accompanied by Paul Dean and a group of musicians who as well as their own instruments, all played toy instruments, whirled hosepipes above their heads and made weird noises to the accompaniment of the percussionist popping paper bags.

There is another wonderful day ahead tomorrow, and tickets are available at the gate and online. Don’t miss it!

To see a full gallery of images from today’s Sound Shell Easter Saturday Program  CLICK HERE

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