Earlier this year, classical musician James Beck took some time out from life in Sydney to become one of the artists in residence on the Bundanon property, just outside of Nowra.

The experience may very well prove to have changed Beck’s life forever, if the new venture he was inspired to create becomes a success.

The Flametree Festival is being staged this weekend on the historic property, which was once the home of artists Arthur and Yvonne Boyd. The Boyds donated their home to the Australian artistic community in 1993 to help foster new talents in their endeavours.

Beck, a cellist with the Brandenburg Orchestra, says he was especially moved after learning that music was one of the great passions of Arthur Boyd’s life.

Beck and fellow Bundanon artist in residence, pianist Heidi Jones, felt they had to give something back to the property, and so came up with the idea of a music festival. They named it Flametree in honour of the iconic Boyd work, Flame Trees Pulpit Rock.

We found out Arthur once said that music was his true love and painting was his work, Beck says. Boyd loved music in every form and he really wanted this to also be a place for music.

That idea really stuck with us and we felt that while art can sit on the wall and stay there for all time, it was now up to us to keep on performing here to make sure there is music among these walls.

Beck and Jones are the artistic directors of the Flametree Festival, which features five music sessions this coming long weekend at Bundanon.

Thirty musicians will perform, including both Beck and Jones, opera diva Jane Sheldon and swing-jazz-Latin trio, Monsieur Camembert.

Among the sessions Beck says he is most excited about is Saturday’s Sounds & Solitudes, in which a number of musicians will play from positions dotted across an orchid-covered wall of rock in a natural amphitheatre on the property.

The acoustics are amazing and the sound is un-amplified, he says. The effect is quite staggering.

The Mozart & Murcutt session on Sunday will feature the Australian premiere of Philip Glass’s musical score from the film, The Hours.

That I am really excited about, as I announced I would get the music and that we would do it, but then had no idea how I would actually secure the music, he laughs.

It was a matter of endless Googling and chasing and perseverance, and finally I found a way to access the music through one of Philip’s people. I hope people have a response to the music live as they did to it in the movie.

Beck laughs as he confesses he knows the inaugural staging of the Flametree Festival clashes with the Sleaze Ball, but believes the weekend is big enough to allow both events, celebrating very different types of music, to coexist.

I love a fun weekend as much as the next person, but I feel dark and light are important and sometimes you might want to nourish yourself, and that is what this is all about, he says. There seems to be as many people wanting to do something like this as those wanting to hit Oxford Street.

I think we all need to reinvent ourselves every so often, and that is what this is about. I am looking at Flametree as my future. I hope this festival will be producing artistic events at Bundanon and around the country for years to come. Maybe even all over the world one day, but this is where it begins.


Flametree Festival is on from Friday 29 September to Sunday 1 October at Bundanon, outside of Nowra. See www.flametreeproductions.com.au for more details.

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