Review: AFCM Queens Gardens Concert on 28th July 2019

Townsvillians and visitors have once again voted with their feet, legs, torso, arms and head and headed for the now annual Queens Gardens free concert organised by the Australian Festival of Chamber Music and Townsville City Council and featuring the Barrier Reef Orchestra, soloists from the Festival and 1RAR Band.

Even though the numbers seemed slightly down due to the constantly recurring lament of “too much on all at once” (this time due to the North Queensland Festival of Arts and Strand Ephemera on at the same time) a still large crowd turned up with their picnic rugs and chairs to enjoy another pleasant afternoon of great music in a great setting.

The concert was smoothly facilitated by ABC presenter Christopher Lawrence who bought a good wit and music knowledge to help our enjoyment of the music.

First off, the Barrier Reef Orchestra conducted by Andrew Ryder set the upbeat mood with a fast dance from Mexico, Huapango by Moncayo, this seemed to have a rather complex rhythmic structure and it would be interesting to see the folk dance which traditionally goes with it.  The Orchestra then gave us another lively piece from the soundtrack of Pokėmon the movie.

A wonderful part of these free outdoor concerts is the musicians who come to Townsville from all over the world to play at the AFCM and who are at the top of their mastery of playing their instrument.   Martin Kuuskmann from Estonia/USA joined the Orchestra and played the Bassoon giving us some amazing works – one, Watching what you do with my heart (by Richard Hieronynus) was especially written for Martin (one of 11 apparently) and  Martin even bought a small jazz swing to this very interesting piece.  He also played the Piazzolla Tango Oblivion which certainly showed that the Bassoon shouldn’t just be buried up the back of an orchestra but has a wonderful sound solo. 

Mezz-soprano Lotte Betts-Dean who is Australian but based in London then gave a very wistful rendition of Somewhere from West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein  and a song dedicated to her Townsville  grandparents We’ll meet again by Ros Parker and Hughie Charles and made famous by Vera Lynn.

A change of pace again came when Amy Dickson played her soprano Saxophone with a beautiful rendition of Theme from Cinema Paridiso  by the father and son composers  Ennio and Andrea Morricone.  We also heard another lively Piazzolla Tango Libertango.

The Orchestra then took a break and 1RAR Band gave us the full BIG Band treatment with pieces including I was made for loving you by Kiss, Cruising and Chips and Salsa.  The 1RAR can certainly belt it out and their dynamic professionalism is certainly loved by the audience.

The Orchestra then joined the 1 RAR Band for a grand finale – this year parts of William Tell Overture – and a grand finale it was, it had many people nodding their head to the beat and children near me were compelled to get up and dance.

These Queens Gardens Concerts have now become a feature of the Townsville music calendar and people have good reason to come in their thousands to enjoy them.