Four Winds Bermagui - Music In Nature

History of
Four Winds

Like many beautiful things, we began as an idea fuelled by passion

“Four Winds demonstrates a way forward for music through the power of collaboration, community and natural beauty. The Four Winds site, with the ‘Windsong’ Pavilion and outdoor Sound Shell make it a world class venue and a one-of-a-kind audience experience.”

Harriet Cunningham

In the late 80s, writer, philanthropist and Barragga Bay resident Neilma Gantner gathered friends and neighbours in her library to talk about an idea – how to bring high quality music, performed in the open air, to the local, coastal community.


The group set about realising the vision – to bring performing arts of the highest quality to Bermagui for the benefit of locals and tourists.

The Barragga Bay site, all natural bush, is offered to the group by Neilma’s son, actor Carrillo Gantner.

Architect Hans Hallen is tasked with designing three grass terraces looking over the picturesque dam, the site’s natural amphitheatre. A small stage is constructed from sleepers, with a dismountable plywood sound-reflector.


The first presentation of the Four Winds Easter Festival takes place to an appreciative audience of two hundred people.

Michael Brimer is Artistic Director for this year’s festival, plus 1992 and 1993.

The festival is supported entirely by volunteers.


The second Easter Festival takes place and includes many Indigenous performers, with participation by the local Umbarra community members and artists, who then, as now, share their songs, dances and wisdom.
Indigenous Elders consistently share knowledge and inspiration for visual and musical arts.


Neilma’s son, actor Carrillo Gantner and writer Rodney Hall are Artistic Directors of the Easter Festival for remainder of 1990s.

Standard music works from the western cannon combine with didgeridoo performance, Cretan and Irish folk tunes, traditional and contemporary Chinese music, Gamelan bronze gongs, chimes and drums, the exhilarating rhythms and music of Greece and more.


A marquee style cover is added to the stage, and as the festival grows, generators, sound equipment, food and beverage vendors and toilets are all being brought in from outside. The festival is still supported entirely by volunteers.

At every festival, new Australian works are commissioned and premiered.


The Easter Festival continues to flourish, supported by the local community and hundreds of volunteers. It grows to cover many days.

The Easter Festival moves to every second year. The years 2000, 2002, 2004 are co-directed by Carrillo Gantner and Rodney Hall.

The Festival continues to display diversity and excellence, commissions new works, and thrives on the electric dynamic of internationally and nationally acclaimed musicians collaborating with emerging artists.


Neilma Gantner and her son Carrillo establish the Four Winds Foundation, in order to raise funds for the ongoing production of festivals and for beautification of the site, Nature’s Concert Hall. The foundation is completely independent of the Four Winds arts organisation.


The first ‘Friends of Four Winds’ event takes place at composer Peter Sculthorpe’s home in Sydney, the organisation’s first event outside Bermagui. From this event a group was formed setting out to commission new Australian works.


Sheena Boughen becomes Chair of Board, and Chris Latham is Artistic Director of the Festival.

A concerted drive for funds begins, looking to create ‘Nature’s Concert Hall’.

Education and Outreach programs are created in order to foster connection with local community.

Peter Sculthorpe Quartet along with William Barton (didgeridoo) play in Four Winds’ first ever outreach program to schools called the ‘Barnstorming Tour’. The tour lasted for ten days and comprised an impressive 25 concerts and a Classic FM recording, and culminated in 2 free concerts for children at the National Music Festival in Canberra.


Modern Turkish group from New York, Omar Farouk comes to Bermagui. At the end of the second day, the entire audience jumped to their feet and danced, a reaction not seen before at the Easter Festival.

The Four Winds Festival is finalist for Limelight Magazine’s ‘Best Festival in Australia’ Award. Chris Latham Artistic Director.

An evening feast takes place under the stars on Saturday evening at the top of the hill, for all artists and the community. Terry Riley performs for diners at this year’s event.


ABC Classic FM records the entire festival for broadcast nationally, the first time the festival has been heard by an audience outside the venue.

Fund raising for Nature’s Concert Hall is doing well. Genevieve Lacey is Artistic Director of this year’s festival. Four Winds wins APRA/AMC Art Music Award for Excellence in a Regional Area.

Black Arm Band along with (now Dr) Lou Bennet performs, a collaboration instigated by Genevieve Lacey, signalling a deeper relationship with Indigenous artists.

In Bermagui, artist Paolo Pandolfo plays his Viola da Gamba on a man-drawn cart, travelling through the free community concert audience of 1500 people, to a complete hush.

After a huge downpour during a performance, Carrillo Gantner stops the music and asks the audience if they want the concert to be held over, or go on. 1,000 people put up umbrellas and donned raincoats and on the concert went. The commitment of the Four Winds audiences was realised!


Four Winds increases community participation and audience development. Inspiring 2011, is the result of a new partnership between Four Winds Easter Festival and Sydney Children’s Choir (SCC), with a program of events designed by SCC’s Lyn Williams and Four Winds Artistic Director, Genevieve Lacey.

Another 2011 project is the work The Singing Stones, inspired by local Indigenous culture.
The work is rehearsed with school students from the region within a program that involves workshops and skills development for students and teachers.

Along with visitors the Sydney Children’s Choir, more than 450 children from 9 schools participate and perform in Moruya, Bermagui and Bega. Audiences exceed expectations and concerts sell out.


The stunning new Philip Cox designed Sound Shell is unveiled at this year’s Easter Festival. The outdoor amphitheatre now seats 2,000 people.

Indigenous singer/songwriter Lou Bennett (from Black Arm Band) working with the local Yuin communities, writes songs in language which are performed at the Four Winds Festival in 2012. A notable piece to emerge from this creative process is the song Gulaga and Gadu, sung by local primary school children.

Madelaine Flynn and Tim Humphry, commissioned in 2011, create a soundscape representing the many sounds and stories of our community. Throughout the year 110 locals participate in sound walks, called Bermagui Talks, which contributes to the final soundscape called The Seagull, which is on show at this landmark Easter Festival.


Relationship with ANAM commenced, giving city and elite artists an opportunity for regional experience. Paul Dean and AURIC quartet and others began coming to us in Bermagui, rather than having to send our students to the city to participate and perform.


Opening of Windsong Pavilion dedicated to Neilma Gantner. A powerful and memorable ‘Welcome to Country’ is given with performances from workshops by Shellie Morris. Paul Kildea AD.

Margaret Throsby stands by in wonder as Cellist Giovanni Sollima creates sensation as he strips off his shirt and plays to an amazed crowd, including Richard Tognetti (ACO), and Croatian pianist Dejan Lazic who were also on stage with Ms Throsby.


Four Winds founder, friend, writer and philanthropist Neilma Gantner dies at the age of 92. The Easter Festival is considered to be Neilma’s most lasting legacy, and it flourishes in her beloved Barragga Bay.

The Bermagui Project celebrates the beauty and significance of Natures Concert Hall and the surrounding environment. The project draws together the stories, history, Indigenous and scientific knowledge of this place, and our surrounding environment, endeavouring to inspire the creation and presentation of new works of music, dance, visual art and film.

Shellie Morris and Archie Roach continue creative composition from 2013/14 workshops, working with local Indigenous musicians.

The first Executive Director of Four Winds growing arts organisation is appointed – David Francis.


Sheena Boughen stands down from her position as Chair of the Four Winds Board, and is awarded an Arts Leadership Award from Creative Partnerships and an Order of Australia for her role in the development and expansion of Four Winds, ‘Nature’s Concert Hall’.

Michael Darling becomes Chair of Four Winds Inc.
Paul Dean is Artistic Director of the Festival for this year.

David Leha (Radical Son) continue Shellie Morris’ and Archie Roach’s work, with performances at the 2016 Four Winds Festival.

The Easter Festival is short listed for APRA/AMC Arts Music Award.
James Crabb is appointed Artistic Director.


The education stream blends with our Indigenous partnership. Deborah Cheetham composes the song, Mother Mountain, partly in language, with a group of 36 Indigenous children from three of our local primary schools.

This song is now regularly sung by local primary school children, and is part of an evolving Four Winds Song Book (brainchild of James Crabb) being composed for young people based on our place.


In a huge year Four Winds education streams, the Musicians in Schools program commences and the Annual Spring Youth Music Festival also has its first outing. Composer Lisa Young is director of and creates songs for the Youth Festival.

Easter Festival becomes an annual event once more.

David Leha returns in 2018 to perform and record a new arrangement of his 2016 commissioned compositions.


As part of this year’s Easter Festival The Lady Jane free community event takes place on Bermagui Oval, and several house concerts take place throughout the region, in churches and homes, country halls and surf clubs.

The Easter Festival is nominated for the international Classical:NEXT Innovation Award.

With the support of the National Museum of Australia, Artist Cheryl Davison is appointed as Aboriginal Creative Producer for Four Winds.

The project Bagan • Barra Barra • Mirriwarr (Land, Sea, Sky) commences, supported by the National Museum of Australia, and the Bega Valley Regional Gallery. Traditional Possum-skin cloak making workshops are held.

The Djinama Yilaga Koori Women’s Choir creates songs in Dhurga Language along with composer Dr Lou Bennet for performance at Four Winds 21st Easter Festival.


After horrible Summer bushfires, and lockdowns due to Covid-19, the decision is made to cancel Four Winds 21st Easter Festival.

Lindy Hume is appointed Creative Director of Easter Festivals for 2021 & 2022. The Festivals’ 21st Birthday celebrations held over to 2021.

Due to lockdowns, a film project commences, creating video works for the four songs created by Dr Lou Bennet and the Djinama Yilaga Choir. The films will be premiered at the 2021 Easter Festival.

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