Artistic Director Kris Stewart’s top picks for Hobart’s Festival of Voices

Firesong from Festival of Voices
Firesong at the Tasmanian Festival of Voices

It has been speculated that Tasmania is one of Australia’s most culturally rich states and Kris Stewart – Artistic Director of Hobart’s Festival of Voices –wholeheartedly agrees.

For the second year running, Stewart (a self confessed ‘outsider’ who has moved to Tasmania) will preside over Hobart’s celebration of all things vocal as the 10 day Festival of Voices kicks off this evening.

What was previously a largely choral event has expanded to encompass music theatre, cabaret, spoken verse and verbal debate and this year’s Festival has doubled in length to accommodate all the incredible events in store.

“Certainly the festival has changed a lot since I came on board”, Kris Stewart told AussieTheatre.

“Obviously I have my own ideas about what is fun and what I wanted to do with it, we have added a lot of cabaret and musical theatre, making the festival a bit more theatrical than it has been in previous years.”

Stewart’s musical theatre background is extensive, having been the resident director of WICKED as well as the artistic director of the New York Musical Theatre Festival.

He believes that the culturally rich lifestyle which Tasmanian’s enjoy is a wonderful cause for celebration.

Voices of Vice - Festival of Voices
Voices of Vice at the 2012 Hobart Festival of Voices

“I think the things that are most special about Hobart in Winter, especially as an outsider who has moved here, is the culture. The food, the wine, the music and visual arts. They are a real tangible part of the city and the community here.”

“In a compact kind of city at the base of a mountain which looks out over a bay it’s a really beautiful place, and they really prioritise things that are personal, and one thing a festival can do is to really showcase that.”

Kris offered his 5 top picks for this year’s festival…

Escape & Arrival

Commissioned for the 2012 Festival, ESCAPE & ARRIVAL will inspire and excite you with stories of women facing adversity and creating community in this city of extremes. 

“This event is opening the festival tonight. It’s a new work we are premiering. It’s a commission that we got funded by festivals australia to do, so it has a string quintet and a vocal ensemble that mixes contemporary sudanese music with traditional english music”, said Stewart.

5pm-6:30pm, Friday 6 July

Gin Swing

The big brass sound of Kelly Ottoway’s nine piece band, the Modern Operative, will awaken you with its captivating and original swing arrangements of contemporary music and classic swing standards.

“This is another premiere. Three sets of lounge swing standards and each set is paired with a cocktail. There is a late night New York, where you get a gin and tonic and there is a set of big band swing songs. It’s going to be really cool.”

9:30pm-11pm, Saturday 14 July

Voices of Vice

In the shadowy depths of the VOICEBOX den you will hear tunes made famous by the drug-addled and decadent, songs of sweat and sin that are sure to keep you on the edge of your seat.

“We are bringing this back for the second year this year. It sold out last year and it sold out really quickly this year again. It features great, down and dirty numbers!”

9:30pm-11pm, Saturday 7 July

Proud Music

Guest choirs Exaudi and Choristry will proudly join singers who have attended the Glorious Sounds workshop to create a massed choir. 

“We are re-opnening the Odeon concert hall which has been closed here for the last 12 years. We have a 90 piece orchestra and a 120 voice choir doing a spectacular choral and orchestral event. That’s going to be really awesome!”

8pm-9:30pm, Friday 13 July

Angel Story

Following the sell out success of last year’s, atmospheric and unnerving Ghost Story, the Festival of Voices is again teaming up with MONA to present a one-night-only event of heavenly tales. 

“Three short stories that have been written for the festival in conjunction with Island Magazine – one of the best existing short story writers magazines. The three stories are underscored with a live vocal accompaniment as they are performed, and we are presenting these in the Nolan gallery at MONA which is an amazing environment”

8pm-9:30pm, Wednesday 11 July

Fire Song and Food of Love

“There are also the two big free family events which open and close the festival. One is called Firesong, which has open bonfires and lanterns and fire sculptures, mass choirs and large puppets.

“The other is food of love which closes the festival. We close the main street of Hobart and put tables right down the street and all the restaurants come out into the street. We have these little pop up candlelight concerts that happen along the street throughout the night. Something might pop up for 15 minutes – a vocalist and a piano accordion – and it’s a really great atmosphere.

“Both these events are free at each end of the festival and are great fun as well!”

Firesong from 6pm, 6 July 
Food of Love from 5pm 15, July

Erin James

Erin James is's former Editor in Chief and a performer on both stage and screen. Credits include My Fair Lady, South Pacific and The King and I (Opera Australia), Love Never Dies and Cats (Really Useful Group), Blood Brothers (Enda Markey Presents), A Place To Call Home (Foxtel/Channel 7) and the feature film The Little Death (written and directed by Josh Lawson).

Erin James

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