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Bach and Bathe at Peninsula Hot Springs

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by Elizabeth Quinn (subscribe)
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Sunset and strings make a memorable musical experience
Anyone who has 'taken the waters' at the Peninsula Hot Springs would find it hard to resist the invitation to take it to the next level. And Friday night's 'Bach and Bathe' event was exactly that. In partnership with the Peninsula Summer Music Festival, bathers were invited to its new amphitheatre for an evening of immersion, both physical and cerebral.

The evening began with an introduction to the hot springs ethos by co-founder Charles Davidson. He had always considered the natural amphitheatre space a perfect setting for music, and the soothing effects of immersion in good music and 38 degree C water a perfect fit.

A tenuous link was established between the composers selected for the program and their predilection for taking the waters at spa towns like Baden Baden and Carlsbad. The easygoing crowd went along with it. For some of them it was their first taste of live classical music, and judging by the applause, it was a great success. Even the wildlife seemed to enjoy it.

The program was a combination of Bach, Haydn, Beethoven and Mendelssohn, with a couple of Danish folk songs thrown in. It started with a Haydn string quartet in F Minor, followed by Beethoven's first string quartet, then finished with a selection of JS Bach's Goldberg Variations interspersed with Mendelssohn's Song Without Words.

Peter Clark, the first violinist of the Inventi Ensemble, spoke of choosing music aimed at bringing 'some hope and optimism to our world'. Getting the right balance of inspirational and accessible must have been a challenge. The program would not have been particularly easy listening for the uninitiated. Clark's stage presence - gesticulating, reading accounts of the composer's daily lives, prowling back and forth - may have been an added attraction for the bathers. For this reviewer, it was almost as distracting as the omnipresent cameraman and his collection of filming devices including (in breaks between sets) a drone.

Those issues aside, the evening was a fresh take on two centuries-old pastimes - taking the waters and listening to classical music - which more or less worked. And the punters seemed to enjoy it. Whether bathing in the thermal baths, sitting on folding chairs or relaxing on a picnic rug, everyone had a view of the shade-cloth covered 'stage'. Refreshments were available from the wine bar for those without their own hampers, and the weather was close to perfect. As the sun went down, the lights went up, bathing the stage in light that reflected off the water.

Bach and Bathe, Peninsula hot springs, peninsula summer music festival, peninsula, summer, music, festival, Bach, Inventi Ensemble, ben Opie, Peter Clark, Jessica Oddie, William Clark, William Hewer
Festival director Ben Opie

For new festival director Ben Opie, it was a gamble that paid off. The past two weeks have been a hectic but ultimately triumphant time for him and general manager Merryn Tinkler, ably assisted by Jennifer Grinter. The unforgettable energy of duo Sophie Rowell and Kristian Chong at Moorooduc Estate, and the moving Schubert tribute by the barefoot David Greco at St John's church were two personal highlights. May the Peninsula Summer Music Festival continue to thrive under Ben Opie's direction, as it deserves.
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Why? Listening to the music of Bach while luxuriating in the terraced Amphitheatre pools or having a picnic on the terraced lawns.
When: Friday January 11 from 4pm to 9pm
Phone: 0413 448 283
Where: Peninsula Hot Springs
Cost: $75 (Performance only) $100 (Bach and Bathe) $130 (Premium Bach and Bathe)
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