I write posts for my blog much less frequently than I used to do, but every so often I'm reminded of the benefits of maintaining it. My blog posts mark the rhythms of my life - the events that occur from time to time and that connect me to friends and family. I spent Easter with old friends in the southern coastal town of Bermagui, attending events for the Four Winds music festival. We've all lost count of how many such festivals we've attended, but for me it's now either seven or eight and given that the festival is held only every second Easter, that's a tradition now established for somewhere between twelve or fourteen years.
I've written about the Four Winds twice before, so it's difficult to find new things to say. Forgive me if I repeat myself.
The centre of the festival is two day-long programs of wonderful mainly classical music played in a most beautiful natural amphitheatre.
Blissful. We take wine and pate, cheese and biscuits for snacks and there is usually interesting food for sale for lunch (this year a confit duck burrito with beetroot relish was particularly memorable). Over the years, as well as wonderful performances of the usual classical repertoire, we've been introduced to new composers and unusual and exploratory performance modes. Often, parts of the program have been what might be described as world music.
A new director is appointed every second festival and this year's was the first for Paul Kildea. There was wonderful music, but by the end of the first day we were wondering what had happened to the diversity and unexpectedness that had characterised the best of previous festivals. We were inclined to be a little critical. By lunch time on the second day, however, we were won over by the new approach to the program. It might have been less diverse, but it featured virtuoso performers of admirable skill and range interacting with one another and with young musicians. We saw and heard masterly performances and witnessed the easy and apparently spontaneous collaboration that comes when musicians are at the top of their game.
This year the frogs, whose voices usually accompany the music, were silent, but we had the usual background of birdsong and less usually, flocks of raucous lorikeets and cockatoos.
But that's not all! There's always a cabaret-style performance on the night before the festival begins and this year it was Paul McDermott's 'The Dark Garden' - a mixture of haunting songs sung in McDermott's angelic voice and his offensive, confrontational humour. Puzzling, as I'm sure he intends it to be. And we also had an afternoon and evening of jazz at the Bermagui Wharf with the performers on a moored yacht and an audience in bring-your-own deckchairs. It was magical as the sun set, people chatted quietly, and the music wafted around us.
But even the Four Winds festival itself is not all. Old friends become even older friends as we grow older together. Over time such companionship is easy and much valued. And then there is the beauty of Bermagui itself. It's a long drive from either Sydney or Melbourne (though the drive can be a great opportunity to catch up with friends) and the distance has protected it from much of the development that characterises more easily accessible coastal towns. I particularly like the marshlands at the back of my friends' house with its pathway to the beach.
I'm hoping for many more Four Winds festivals - though it will be interesting to see if I am still writing blog posts in two years' time.