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One of the world’s best chamber music festivals takes place in Townsville/Gurambilbarra : here’s who’s coming and what it will sound like in 2024!

Australian Festival of Chamber Music 7 mins read
Tickets to the Australian Festival of Chamber Music in Townsville-Gurambilbarra are on sale THIS FRIDAY

With two world premieres, the return of Stephen Johnson, Piers Lane, Roderick Williams, Lotte Betts-Dean and Brett Dean,

the official farewell of the Goldner String Quartet, the Festival debut of famed cellist and conductor, Umberto Clerici and 13 other artists,

and more Guilty Pleasures, the Australian Festival of Chamber Music in Townsville-Gurambilbarra continues to sound extraordinary!


Tickets on sale THIS FRIDAY 1st March at

Imagery here


Australian Festival of Chamber Music (AFCM) Artistic Director Jack Liebeck has done it again. In his third year holding the artistic baton, he’s programmed a stunning lineup of international artists, music, conversations and deep dive discussions that take chamber music well beyond concert halls.


This year, from 26 July to 4 August, more than 35 artists including 10 international artists, 20 Australian artists and 5 ensembles, will create the music and atmosphere in Townsville-Gurambilbarra for which the AFCM is famed around the world. Fourteen artists will make their AFCM debut and the program includes two world premieres and one Australian premiere.


Jack Liebeck described the highlights, saying, “I am particularly excited to welcome back our former Artistic Director, the man for whom I can credit my entire connection to Australia, Piers Lane. I know his appearance this year will be a major highlight.”  


“We will also be saying adieu to our beloved Goldner String Quartet who so movingly announced their retirement during our Festival Farewell in August 2023. The 2024 program is very much a “Goldner-fest”, I hope we will all drink to them during their Champagne Concert Conversations and bid them a wonderful farewell!”


Liebeck said after two years at the helm and watching and talking to audiences, it made him realise that AFCM fans don’t just want to experience music in a passive way, they want to understand it on a deeper level.


“One of the distinctive features of the AFCM is its commitment to fostering a unique connection between artists and audiences. The Festival encourages a sense of intimacy and engagement, offering opportunities for attendees to interact with the performers through forums, masterclasses and special events. This creates a rare and immersive experience, allowing enthusiasts to delve into the intricacies of chamber music and gain insights into the creative process.”


“Our resident musicologist Stephen Johnson was such a hit in 2023 that I have invited him to come back, his musical wisdom and insight is truly Festival enhancing. Learning what goes on behind the notes is so valuable to really gain insight into what you hear our musicians perform. Among other things, he will guide us through Ravel Piano Trio and Brahms Horn Trio as well as give insight into what it is in music that really makes us feel something when we listen to it. It will be fascinating,” he said.


“One of my favourite AFCM inventions, Guilty Pleasures, is back again, where I invite musicians to perform their favourite piece of music – from the eclectic to the unusual. It is always wonderful, surprising and inspiring!”


“We will also feature a unique concert Wonderful World by cellist Christian-Pierre La Marca accompanied by the Australian Youth Orchestra’s Momentum ensemble, featuring breathtaking imagery of our precious earth and beautiful music that is equally as special.”


“Watch out for Musical Transfigurations in which we will experience two incredible tone poems, Mahler Symphony No 1 “Titan” and a unique performance of Schoenberg Verklärte Nachte.  There are so many highlights in my mind during this program, it will be extraordinary.”


To the two world premieres: during the Evening Concert 1 - Melodious Monday on 29 July - Stephen Johnson’s new piece, written just for the AFCM in the slightly unsettling Unquiet Sleepers, will be performed; and at the final Sunset Series concert Distant Beloved on Saturday 3 August, Roderick ‘Roddy’ Williams’ Not Yet Here will be performed by Lotte Betts-Dean with Itamar Golan on piano accompaniment. Roddy will introduce the piece himself.


The Minister for the Arts Leeanne Enoch said the Australian Festival of Chamber Music offers a spectacular live music program in the postcard setting of tropical Townsville, activating a range of spaces including gardens, a cathedral, hotels and resorts and the Civic Theatre. 


“AFCM 2024 will present Queensland stories and talent alongside international classics, attracting locals and visitors to connect and share in the joy and unifying power of music,” Minister Enoch said.


“The Queensland Government has proudly invested in the AFCM for more than 30 years, which has grown to be a highlight on the state’s cultural calendar, providing a pipeline of creative employment opportunities, generating important regional economic benefits and reinforcing Queensland’s reputation as a global cultural tourism destination.


“The Government’s support of festivals such as the AFCM helps position our arts sector and communities to embrace the opportunities presented by the Brisbane 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games when we will share our arts and cultures with the world,” The Minister said.


Australian Festival of Chamber Music – 2024 highlights:-


Opening Night - Festival Feelings

The much-loved Goldner String Quartet's AFCM swansong begins with Schumann String Quartet Op.41 No.3. before a gearchange into Hellfire by Mark Holdsworth and then to finish, an incredible arrangement of Ravel String Quartet for all the Festival strings, making that beautiful work come to life on a symphonic scale.


Champagne Concert Conversations with the Goldner String Quartet

Riase a glass to celebrate the Goldner String Quartet, here in conversation with their great friend, collaborator and former AFCM Artistic Director, Piers Lane, with the musical offering a selection of their favourite works.


Sunset Series 1 - Spanish Sunset

To the beautiful nation of Spain, and a performance of passion and sublime harmony with the music of Turina, Albeniz, Chick Corea, Montsalvatge and Da Falla.


Governor’s Gala - Angels, Demons and Other Nasties...

Timothy Constable will begin this concert with his piece, Last Shaman  before Tansman's La Danse de la Sorcière and Brett Dean's infamous Voices of Angels, and then our incredible baritone, Roderick Williams makes a pact with the devil in a magical selection from Berlioz's Faust. To finish, two pianists dance TO THE DEATH with Stravinsky's Rite of Spring... 


Sunday Morning Church Concert - Discovering Music with Stephen Johnson

Discover the inner beauty contained within two masterworks of the chamber music repertoire, Brahms Horn Trio and Ravel Piano Trio, brought expertly to life by Festival musicians and eruditely explained by the one and only Stephen Johnson.


AFCM Illuminates 2 - Cochlear Implants - bringing hearing back...

Imagine life without sound. Incredible technology can now rebuild the hearing in many and will be explained here by a world leading expert in its development. 


Sunday Night Concert - Schubertiade 

In celebration of the famous composer Schubert, the audience will hear a new arrangement by Roderick Williams of Schubert's tour de force song cycle, Die Schöne Müllerin and perhaps the greatest piece of chamber music ever written, the C major String Quintet.


Evening Concert 1 - Melodious Monday (includes a world premiere)

An evening of musical joy and intrigue, beginning with the seldom heard Grand Septet by Franz Berwald, a work of great humour and elegance.  Stephen Johnson’ new work Unquiet Sleepers, written especially for AFCM will have its world premiere debut before Xenakis' Psappha, an exciting solo percussion piece dedicated to the Greek Poet of the same name, and finishing with Franck's Piano Quintet, of which the Goldner Quartet and Piers Lane have famously recorded to wide acclaim.


Sunset Series 3 - Symphonic Sunset

The second piece in the Lost But Not Forgotten thread in this year's program. Natalie Klouda's moving musical description, in piano quintet form, of the life of solo violinist and Holocaust victim Alma Rosé begins this concert, followed by a dramatic realisation of Shostakovich Symphony No 15 for piano trio and percussion.  


AFCM Illuminates 4 - Musical Architecture, Designing the Concert Hall of the Future

As Townsville pushes forward with its plan for a new purpose built concert hall for the city, what makes a great concert hall, and how acoustics and architecture work to create truly harmonious instruments in their own right will be discussed.


Evening Concert 2 - Wonderful World - Christian-Pierre La Marca and AYO Momentum

In this humanistic ode to nature, French cellist Christian-Pierre La Marca presents a packed program on the theme of saving the planet. “Wonderful World” is a project of multiple inputs. As he explains, “music has the ability to awaken consciences, to make people more sensitive, without trying to convince or mobilize them. Music is a short circuit that goes straight to the heart”. He is joined by the Australian Youth Orchestra’s elite graduate string ensemble, Momentum with incredible imagery from Yann Arthus-Bertrand.


Evening Concert 3 - Baroque Temptations

In exploring the music of W.F. Bach, Handel, Vivaldi and J.S. Bach, Donald Nicolson will be joined by Roderick Williams and other musicians, with a standout being Julian Smiles performing Bach Cello Suite No. 3.


Evening Concert 4 - Musical Transfigurations

Following last year’s triumphant performance of Mahler 4th Symphony, we will the Mahler's epic First Symphony "Titan", referred to at its conception as a "tone poem in symphonic form", here performed with 15 instruments!  This evening's performance will conclude with a special performance of Schonberg's incredible tone poem Verklärte Nacht or Transfigured Night, here performed in the near dark. This should be magical!


Sunset Series 5 - Purcell - A Selection from The Fairy-Queen with Donald Nicolson, AYO Momentum and Lotte Betts Dean

Purcell's The Fairy-Queen is loosely based on Shakespeare Midsummer Night's Dream and was composed three years before the composer's early death at 35 years old. The score was only rediscovered early in the 20th century and will be championed here by Donald Nicolson, Lotte Betts-Dean and the young virtuosos from AYO Momentum.


Sunset Series 6 - Distant Beloved (includes a World Premiere)

The concert begins with Beethoven’s only song cycle, A die ferne Geliebte (To the far away beloved) sung by UK Baritone Roderick Williams. Williams then provides the music for the beloved’s response, set to words by poet Rommi Smith. At last, Beethoven’s title character finally has the chance to give her side of the story in this world premiere of Williams' song cycle.


Closing Night Concert - Festival Farewell

The final night begins with Memories of Green upon the Blue Fields of the Ocean written by Festival favorite, William Barton. This is followed, rather fittingly at this troubling time, by Ruth Schonthal's A Bird Flew Over Jerusalem in which she imagines a humanized bird flying over the city, listening aghast to the sound of the incomprehensible sufferings humans inflict on each other down below.  To liven things up, is the joyous Mendelssohn String Sinfonia, some beautiful Ibert for winds and to celebrate the Goldners farewell, they will close out the night with Tchaikovsky's truly breath-taking String Quartet  No. 1

Key Facts:

Australian Festival of Chamber Music

26 July to 4 August 2024 in Townsville-Gurambilbarra, North Queensland

Concert tickets, Festival passes and holiday packages on sale NOW | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | #afcm

Contact details:

Kath Rose | 0416 291 493 |


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