The 2017 Queensland Music Festival is shaping up to be arguably the biggest event in its history, with artistic director Katie Noonan officially launching July's massive program in Brisbane tonight.
The near-month-long festivities will feature multiple world premieres and include a diversity of revered Australian musicians across scenes and generations to provide a comprehensive celebration of local music in keeping with this year's theme to "hear and be heard".
Speaking to The Music recently, Noonan explained that this year's particularly evident social conscience is inherent in her lifelong approach to her work and life.
"It's always been part of my plan as a human being — I've always tried to do good with my music, whether that be in a really simple sense in that it's sending a positive message or a message of empowerment about owning your power or loving your body or whatever," she explained. "But then, when you get to be an artistic director, you get to expand that kind of general ethos onto such an amazingly massive scale, because, you know, you can take that concept but make it bigger. I think art has a responsibility to comment on the orders of the day and reflect our society."
"We have well over 2000 people registered to join us at the event at South Bank … [and] we have almost 4000 people registered from all over the country."
Among the list of incredible offerings, QMF will welcome venerated vocalists Kate Ceberano and Isaiah, along with Noonan herself, to lead the thousands-strong choir set to take part — in person and via livestream — in a mass singalong of John Farnham's iconic tune You're The Voice at South Bank Piazza on Saturday 29 July.
"We have well over 2000 people registered to join us at the event at South Bank on July 29th, we have almost 4000 people registered from all over the country, not just Queensland, to sing with us through the live stream, and also people putting on their own events in their own towns and cities," Noonan said.
"I'm very excited to announce that myself and Kate Ceberano and Isaiah, fresh from his Eurovision journey, will be joining the choir of thousands at South Bank, which is very exciting, and we also will have another mystery guest to be announced at a later date, which is even more exciting," she continued.
The concert is designed to highlight the country's domestic violence crisis, and a recorded cover of the song featuring Noonan, Ceberano and Firebrace along with Archie Roach, Troy Cassar-Daley and Montaigne has freshly been released to raise funds in the fight against domestic violence.
"We have six singers spanning age 17 to 61 ... singing together for change, and everyone can buy that charity single and share the film clip and all that stuff, and know that every single cent from sale one will go to DV Connect through the Sony Foundation," she said. "The main focus of the charitable proceeds will be helping teenage youth in the DV crisis space, because they're often forgotten — well, not forgotten, but it's harder for them to have the support when it comes to housing and all sorts of other issues."
Also reaching its culmination during QMF will be the inaugural Songs That Made Me mentorship program, providing emergent female singer-songwriters from Mt Isa, Mackay and Gladstone the opportunity to work with artists such as Deborah Conway, Clare Bowditch and Hannah Macklin and perform for their hometowns as well as at a special finale concert in Brisbane to be held at The Tivoli on Sunday 16 July.
"Songs That Made Me is all about empowering women to find their voice and sing their song and get to be mentored by amazing women, and it's also about empowering the regional voice," Noonan said of the program.
Meaningfully, Noonan has followed through in a big way on her mandate to make the Queensland Music Festival a truly state-wide experience, with projects such as The Power Within — an 18-month-long effort spanning six central Qld towns that have been affected by everything from the mining boom and bust to extreme weather events that will culminate with a musical event in Moranbah starring 200 locals on Friday 28 and Saturday 29 July — plus the On Song touring program, which gave six regional and rural schoolchildren the chance to learn from award-winning singer-songwriter Jack Carty, and the festival-opening Mission Songs particularly demonstrative of that fact.
"We have beautiful, high-end, gorgeous classical events, we've got great pop events, we've got awesome community events..."
In addition, QMF has implemented the Bach To Bush initiative, taking percussionist John Morrison and cellist Louise King to nine western Qld towns for a series of joint performances, workshops and masterclasses between 13-23 July, as well as making room for Dan Sultan and his bandmates to fly to the remote Indigenous communities of Aurukun, Woorabinda and Palm Island for special NAIDOC Week concerts and workshops from 7-10 July.
"We have an amazing program going from Cape York to Cunnamulla," Noonan enthused of the comprehensive QMF spread. "We have over 100 events over almost 50 locations across all of Queensland. We have beautiful, high-end, gorgeous classical events, we've got great pop events, we've got awesome community events like You're The Voice and The Power Within ... celebrating the diversity and resilience of the Isaac region, across the six cities of Nebo, Clermont, Dysart, Middlemount, Glenden and Moranbah. We've got Bach To Bush, which is the incredible Louise King flying to Boonah, Goondiwindi, Cunnamulla, Kulpi, Bedourie, Charleville, Barcaldine, Longreach and Warwick. We've got Dan Sultan going with his band to three Indigenous communities ... so, yeah, it's pretty massive.
"What I'm very happy about is that our entire festival opens with a really important project called the Mission Songs project, which is a musical journey through life in Indigenous musicians through the 20th century, and this is a beautiful project by Jessie Lloyd, Emma Donovan, Deline Briscoe and Jessica Hitchcock; they're bringing to life the hidden songs and lost stories from the days of the missions, which, you know, in this, the 50th anniversary of the '67 referendum, I think that's a really beautiful project, and I'm very proud that that project is opening the entire festival on Friday the 7th."
Aurukun also features as part of a program bringing together school-age musicians from that community as well as from Coen and Hope Vale for a joint band camp before they showcase their stuff at the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair on 16 July. Meanwhile, the Western Downs will come to life for Opera At Jimbour on Saturday 22 July, while Nambour will stage its own mini-festival, the Currie Street Music Crawl, on Saturday 8 July.
"Twenty artists over five stages — a massive free event, which is being curated by Joc [Curran], who ran The Zoo for 25 years, so that's amazing and featuring a whole bunch of south-east Queensland up-and-coming artists and legends like Screamfeeder, but also artists like Sahara Beck, Emily Wurramara, Ayla, Hannah Rosa, The Fergies, The Floating Bridges," Noonan said. "And that's in connection with QMusic, so they're going to be bringing five new, fresh artists who get to have one of their first professional gigs at a festival.
"That was a real demographic that I wanted to work on fostering, and Nambour's ... a seriously hip town! I'm a Sunshine Coast person, so obviously I'm a bit biased, but there's all these awesome little bespoke, boutique beer places and awesome galleries... like, there are a lot of dudes with man-buns and beards in Nambour. The hipsters have come to Nambour."
Impressively, QMF will also see the reunion — for the first time since 1989 — of The Go-Betweens members Lindy Morrison, Amanda Brown and John Willsteed to pay homage to the band's acclaimed sixth album, 16 Lovers Lane, with an all-star line-up of guest musicians including The Church's Steve Kilbey — with whom Willsteed performed The Go-Betweens' seminal track Streets Of Your Town at the launch — as well as Died Pretty's Ron Peno and many more at QPAC on Friday 14 July.
On the more intimate side of things, Immersion — a series of concerts held at new hotel The Johnson with audiences limited to no more than 20 people per show — promises some up-close-and-personal brushes with the likes of Noonan herself, Montaigne, All Our Exes Live In Texas, Moreton, Robbie Miller and Deborah Conway with Willy Zygier, among others, over 10 nights during the festival.
"That one's free as well, so you've got to register to be in a ballot to be in that, because obviously that'd sell out in seconds," Noonan said. "So rather than that we're going to make it a ballot, so you put your name down and randomly we'll just pick out... somehow, we'll come up with the 20 names per night and you get to go hang out in this incredible hotel in Spring Hill."
Meanwhile, acclaimed muso Lior will woo Brisbane audiences for the first time in more than seven years, heading to the Old Museum as well as Noosa's Long Weekend Festival on 22-23 July, and Austrian hang soloist, composer and drummer for Bjork, Manu Delago, will be a part of Hang With QYO, a world-premiere concerto written by Qld composer Dr Thomas Green in honour of "the father of Australia's youth orchestra movement", John Curro AM MBE.
And, if you're looking for laughs, you can get your fill at the Powerhouse, where Colin Lane — he of Lano & Woodley fame — stars in a satirical musical by playwright Stephen Carleton and composer Paul Hodge called Joh For PM.
"Since QMF started 18 years ago, it has reached more than a million people through projects in 82 regions," Noonan summarised in a statement. "In 2017, we will continue this amazing legacy and we encourage all Queenslanders to hear and be heard this July. If you can talk, you can sing."
There is seriously a mind-boggling amount of events entailed in this year's Queensland Music Festival, held across the state from 7-30 July. See the event's website to wrap your head around the smorgasbord on offer.
Street Theatre, Canberra
Street Theatre, Canberra
Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre, Penrith
The Grand Hotel, Mornington
Melbourne Recital Centre, Southbank
Big Red Bash, Birdsville
Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC), South Brisbane
The Palms at Crown, Southbank
Her Majesty's Theatre, Adelaide
Corner Hotel, Richmond
Skycity Darwin, The Gardens
Anita's Theatre, Thirroul
Enmore Theatre, Newtown
Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC), South Brisbane
Twin Towns, Tweed Heads
Astor Theatre, Mt Lawley