It’s a long way from a traditional stage, but the secluded paradise of a north Queensland island has provided the perfect backdrop to a unique musical celebration.
Audience members took a two-hour boat ride from Townsville to attend the intimate concert on Orpheus Island headlined by didgeridoo master William Barton.
“As a person who travels the world, coming back home to our country and our islands is a beautiful thing,” Barton said.
The Kalkadunga man from Mount Isa has taken his craft to some of the world’s most prestigious stages but said “nothing beats” performing among Australia’s natural landscapes.
“It’s always special because this is where the language of the land comes from, this is where the songlines flow through you,” he said.
“In Australia, we have these beautiful natural amphitheatres, or outdoor spaces, that reverberate.”
The Orpheus Island concert was a major drawcard at this year’s Australian Festival of Chamber Music festival and attracted crowds from across the country.
Executive director Ricardo Peach said he hoped the tropical showcase would help introduce the genre of chamber music to a new audience.
“Chamber music, when you hear it and you experience it live with professional musicians, is one of the most magnificent experiences of your life,” Dr Peach said.
The Townsville-based festival began in 1991 and is the largest of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere, but major performances were put on hold for two years during the pandemic.
“More than 60 per cent of our attendees come from interstate … and more and more internationally as well,” Dr Peach said.
“They support this festival like festival groupies — they kept us alive during the lean years during COVID and now they’re back with force.”
Among the crowd at Orpheus Island was celebrated Australian chef and classical music fan Maggie Beer, who has long wanted to attend the beachside concert.
“You have to pinch yourself that this could happen. It’s so Australian, isn’t it?” she said.
“It’s nothing short of a joy.”
After three canceled trips to Australia due to COVID, mezzo-soprano Lotte Betts-Dean was finally able to travel from the UK to sing on the island alongside the musicians.
“I think all of us performers today felt like it was a surreal moment in all of our performance lives,” she said.
“To be able to perform on a beach with bare feet in the sand in this idyllic spot, it’s just gorgeous.
“I think I will really remember this performance for a long time and treasure it because it’s just unlike anything else.”