Brisbane Baroque, 2015 – Under the Rotunda, City Hall Series


Brisbane City HallCity Hall at Brisbane in Queensland is a handsome building, an architectural icon constructed during the 1920’s.

Taking a decade to complete at the cost of nearly a million pounds, it was recognised in Australia at least in construction terms, as being second only to the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Most Brisbane people met during my decade in that town (1999 – 2009) revealed they had a great affection for the building and significant memories of events they had attended inside, fiercely advocating its retention as a focus for city life and restoration (2010 – 2013).

Brisbane grew rapidly in the ten years prior to its separation from New South Wales on Saturday September 3, 1859.

Brisbane City HallThis took place at time when its growing maturity created a sense of civic consciousness, a foundation on which an official administration could be founded.

Its first elected Mayor John Petrie (1822 – 1892) was a man of practical experience and common sense animated by the ‘spirit of the age’.

He guided a community of free men in a city yet to be made, and by the first 20 years of the 20th century, his council’s vision of delivering Brisbane city as a vibrant, dynamic crucible for change had been exceeded many times.

City Hall’s ‘inter-war’ academic classical’ style ensures it is an impressive place, one whose piece de resistance would be its copper dome, the largest in Australia spanning 31 metres.

MasqueradeIt has earned the name ‘the rotunda’ as it punctuates the skyline above the renowned ‘two acre paddock, a splendid room regularly used for civic events, concerts and city council ceremonies.

Music in this domed auditorium is a special treat and will be an important venue for, and aspect of the first Brisbane Baroque Festival 2015, which will debut in Brisbane Friday April 10 – Saturday April 18, 2015.

The ‘mini’ opera Dido and Aeneas will be held Monday 13th April at 8pm followed by La Caccia, The Hunting Horn on Tuesday 14th April, Resplendent Brass on Wednesday 15th, Celestial Cantatas with Sara Macliver on Thursday 16th and Bach – Sacred and Secular on Friday 17th.

Artistic Director Leo Schofield AM was excited when he told me  …

“I’ve seen them all and no town hall in all Australia can match the splendour of Brisbane’s historic City Hall. It will house no fewer than fourteen performances for our festival, including free recitals on the mighty Willis organ and a further five performances at 5pm daily with an admission price of five dollars. That’s about the price of a packet of potato chips with sea salt and balsamic vinegar. Then in the evening there will be five major recitals including a concert performance of Purcell’s sublime Dido and Aeneas.” Schofield said.

Dido abandoned, The Death of Dido by Andrea Sacchi

Dido abandoned, The Death of Dido by Andrea Sacchi

The cast of Dido and Aeneas, includes some of Australia’s finest emerging young soloists, who will be singing alongside seasoned soprano Sara Macliver as Belinda.

They will be supported by members of Brisbane’s Canticum Chamber Choir and the Orchestra of the Antipodes, led by Brisbane Baroque’s Music Director, Erin Helyard.

The performance promises to be something right out of the box.

HornTransparent447x346On Tuesday 14th April the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra’s natural horn player Daryl Poulsen on his period instrument will play a program of music inspired by ‘la caccia’, the hunt a popular and energetic activity in Europe in centuries gone by.

You certainly need energy and experience as well as courage and confidence to play the early horn.

The change of pitch was effected entirely by the lips, because the horn was not equipped with valves until the 19th century.

The older instrument has a superb mellow sound, and an experienced and very polished player like Daryl Poulsen can coax it to reveal its ‘soft articulations’ and other subtleties of tone and colour

Antique music stand, made of  bronze, on white backgroundOn Wednesday 15th it’s all about Resplendent Brass.

With a wealth of wonderful material to draw upon performed virtuoso brass players of the Queensland Symphony Orchestra will combine forces with renowned organist Christopher Wrench.

They will present a program of masterpieces including works by Italian composer, gambist, singer and Roman Catholic priest Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643), Italian composer, organist and influential musician Giovanni Gabrieli (1554-7 -1612) and the English composer who died entirely too young, the pre-eminent composer of his day Henry Purcell (1659-1695).

What they all have in common is their originality, being giant ‘thinkers who produced distinctive sounds and styles that both captivate and charm. They also substantially influenced the development of the 17th century music style.

The Baroque era loved Brass… its music stylistically was renowned for its towering structure and dynamic pictorial style, which reflected a world of changing artistic ideals and the fashions and passions of its age.

It was also a triumphal age and so fanfares on horns preceded royal and special community events.

Must say that I like the idea of Celestial Cantatas.

Sara MacLiver

Soprano sublime Sara Mcliver…

They will be sung by Sydney based soprano Sara Macliver Australia’s leading exponent of Baroque music, whose voice is pure, strong and rich and resonate.

It will be sure to linger long in the lofty heights of the rotunda above as it reaches for the stars.

During the Baroque era in Europe the atmosphere of the world changed as melodies enlivened the space they filled as religion was abandoned and secular life embraced.

It helped to break down boundaries and bring forth a mood revealing that light and space are limitless in their association with both spirit and style.

Sara is one of those performers able to reach a pinnacle with the polished, powerful and yet graceful forms that reflected a world of changing artistic ideals.

This five day treat will come to an end with Bach – Sacred and Secular.

The best of Bach is very good indeed, he’s a composer everyone who likes music from Rock to Baroque can, and do admire.

Bach and Baroque

JS Bach loved brass…

Providing a contrast from serious to sensational, German composer Johann Sebastian Bach (1683-1750), enlivened the spaces where musicians played his music.

He explored the possibilities of monumental forms through virtuosity and ornament, helping to give birth to a new musical language that has infused our imagination and our world now for over three hundred and thirty years.

But wait, I had nearly forgotten there’s more… changing night for daytime… there will be a further five performances under the rotunda at 5pm daily with an admission price of five dollars… details to come to hand…

Richard Gowers

Richard Gowers… youthful virtuoso

On Tuesday 14th to Friday 17th April at 1:00 pm residents will also be treated to a free event. Each day under the dome JS Bach will come into his own when award winning English choral scholar Richard Gowers 18, who belongs to the harmony group The King’s Men at Cambridge, will showcase this legendary musician’s considerable talents as he takes travellers on an Organ Odyssey.

A former chorister in the great choir of King’s College Cambridge, Richard Gowers will present four recitals, a new one each day showcasing the works composed by Bach for the organ.

When Bach played the organ at the 18th century court at Weimar a small town of people in Germany who thought of themselves as ‘cultured’ said of him

His feet seemed to fly across the pedals as if they were winged, and mighty sounds filled the church’.

According to close sources Mr Gower is also able to ‘play with the finest precision’ and is sure accomplish passages on the pedals with his feet, while comfortably fingering the most difficult passages with perfect ease’ on the keyboard.


Bevvy of Baroque instruments…

Going out on a Bang with Bach at Brisbane Baroque 2015 sounds to me like a great way to end a wonderful week of musical performances under the ‘rotunda’ at Brisbane in its city hall.

You will just have to be there.

Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2014

Brisbane Baroque



10th – 17th April, 2015
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Artistic Director Leo Schofield AM
Executive Director Jarrod Carland

Brisbane Baroque is presented through partner the Queensland Performing Arts Centre and is supported by Tourism and Events Queensland, Arts Queensland, the Federal Ministry for the Arts, Griffith University Queensland Conservatorium, the Queensland Symphony Orchestra, Camerata of St John’s, the Lisa Gasteen National Opera School and Opera Queensland.

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