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Published February 4th 2015
A Valentine's Day Cellar-bration of Music-the Food of Love
This is the Sanguine Estate Music Festival's 4th glorious manifestation and Weekend Notes is proud to say we've been a part of it since its inception. We talk to renowned cellist/festival co-director/nice guy Howard Penny about what keeps this highly successful boutique festival fresh and innovative while maintaining its mission statement of providing tip top chamber music performed by celebrated musicians from both here and overseas in a setting of breathtaking beauty. And don't forget that old adage - a chamber orchestra marches on its stomach: SEMF takes very seriously its reputation as a leading gourmet event, with catering provided by the ever-reliable Monsieur Pierre of Kyneton and boutique wines from Sanguine Estate.
WN: This year's Sanguine Estate Music Festival will have a 'taster' weekend in Bendigo on February 6 to 8. What was the thinking behind this innovation?
HP: With the winery weekend now a sellout event, we were keen to give more people the opportunity to have the Sanguine experience. Bendigo has a great reputation as a city that loves the arts, and as there was no dedicated international-level chamber music event on this scale, we saw the opportunity to meet a need. And we fortunately found willing and excited partners in Bendigo Tourism and the City of Greater Bendigo for this venture.
WN: You now have the support of local Bendigo businesses such as the Schaller Studio and the Bendigo Art Gallery. How crucial has community support from the Bendigo and Heathcote regions been to the continuing success of the SEMF?
HP: A continuing dialogue with local communities has been the foundation on which we've built our success. It's important that everyone feels a sense of ownership and involvement in these wonderful events; that they are not just something that is foisted on them once a year. We are thrilled that the internationally renowned Bendigo Art Gallery has backed these plans from the start and that our energetic new partner, The Schaller Studio, has been so committed too. These leading and innovative organisations, as well as many smaller businesses and suppliers, are the perfect match for our vision of what music is able to achieve. We have also always worked closely with local schools and will be actively building relationships in greater Bendigo and the Heathcote area for the future – everyone has the right to the best music, regardless of age or location.
WN: Hear hear! Back in October, the SEMF was a finalist in the Festival and Events category of the 2014 RACV Victorian Tourism awards. What impact has this had on this year's festival and its prospects into the future?
HP: We were honoured by this recognition, and it has given everyone involved in the organisation of the events real encouragement to strive to make the events even better for everyone, and an enrichment for all the communities involved.
WN: The 2015 programme is a cracker, with its customary well-thought-out combination of local and international talent. What will be the highlights for you?
HP: That's like having to choose between your own children! But I'm particularly thrilled about the Dvorak piano quartet, which will be a major work on both weekends – it is a terrific piece and very rarely played. Also the Zelenka arias, some of which to my knowledge have not been performed in 300 years! Having the wonderful William Coleman here from Berlin will be a pleasure for all: he is such a great player and a winning personality. A background fact, new to me too, is that William and Adam will be meeting for the first time since boarding school in England.
WN: And now to the really important stuff: what is Monsieur Pierre of Kyneton planning for the Gala Dinner menu? And what are your tips for the Sanguine wine of the 2015 Sanguine Estate Music Festival?
HP: Now this is also traditionally a surprise, but I can say that the first three courses are Asian, Moroccan, and southern French in inflection. As for the wines, the Progeny and Inception Shiraz are hard to beat, and the d'Orsa magnificent – but the Rose is also absolutely delicious this year!