Warren Chamber Music Festival

Principal Organs Warren Chamber Music Festival


Many people might expect to have to go to the capital cities to hear high-quality chamber music, but Frances Evans is on a mission to correct that prejudice. Hailing from near Warren, 120km northwest of Dubbo in the central west of New South Wales, this year she has established a chamber music festival in Warren which she fully intends to be a biennial event.


‘The planning began last year when two friends approached me saying, “Do you think we could do something like this?” They put down the brochure for the Port Fairy Spring Music Festival, which is very established, and very successful, and sponsored by huge companies and organizations. I said, “Well, we could do something along these lines…,” she tells us two weeks before the festival started, in early May 2021. Using connections from her own orchestral experience, Frances was able to attract professional musicians from all over Australia to come and perform in the festival.
The journey to the first Warren Chamber Music Festival was quite intense. ‘I didn’t even realize that we would be in a position where we could perform Copland’s Appalachian Spring, Elgar’s Serenade for Strings, Arthur Foote’s Night Music for Flute and String Quartet: these are really special works to perform, and the musicians we have been able to draw to this far-west community: it’s just mind-blowing.’
The musicians coming to perform are absolutely determined to engage with the community and perform at their best, which is heartening: ‘It’s so much for us to travel to Sydney, and there have been so many restrictions: we do often miss out, out here, on really top-quality musicianship, but we’re now not going to!’
Frances isn’t alone in developing the festival, though. ‘I have a wonderful committee of music-lovers. There are five of us: I’m leading the charge because I have the connections with the musicians, I’ve selected the repertoire, I’ve collaborated with the soloists, and I’ve worked out what is going to work best in its inaugural year, but there’s lots of support from the town. There are lots of people here who really appreciate classical music, and want more education and more engagement in the community towards classical music.’


A connection between the region and music


Frances grew up on her family’s property, Eurobla, 35km away from Warren. She went to school in the bush, first in Warren itself, and then in Dubbo. She was away from home for fifteen years studying music (she plays the violin), during which time she met her husband, Nick, a clarinettist. They now live on the family property with her two children, Alfred (4), and Harriet (1), who are the sixth generation to grow up there. Frances’s parents still live nearby on the property.
The Warren Chamber Music Festival is hardly her only calling, though. Frances has been pivotal in developing a new programme this year at Warren Central School, which has less than 200 pupils across the primary and secondary years.
‘I deliver a wellbeing music therapy programme there for some young indigenous males. We do drumming together, and singing; and we have a string octet of teenage girls, and we also have a rock band, made up of both genders and both indigenous and non-indigenous students.’
In addition to that, Frances teaches piano and violin around town and provides a music programme for St Mary’s School, the other primary school in Warren.
I love music, and I love seeing music grow in young people:
it’s a beautiful thing to be part of.


A rewarding collaboration with Principal Organs


The composer Fiona Loader was commissioned to write a world-premiere work for the children in the community to perform with Pacific Brass in the Saturday concert of the festival. Fiona put Frances in touch with Kerry Morenos of Principal Organs to see if we could assist in any way with the Warren Chamber Music Festival.
Sure enough, we loaned a Makin organ to be played at the festival concerts: indeed, Fiona Loader herself played the organ for the Festival.
Frances found a great friend in Kerry: ‘We’re both country girls, and we had this immediate rapport and an immediate respect for each other, and Kerry has just gone far and beyond what she would be obliged to do to assist our community, not just with the Makin ‘Rydal’ classical organ, but also with the purchase of two brand-new Roland HP704 digital pianos, which children are having lessons on and are also being used for community music.
‘It’s incredible generosity, because she has actually part-sponsored the purchase of these instruments. So Kerry has financially signed in to our town. Having the organ in Warren has been wonderful: it has already been performed a number of times; and students in the community have had an opportunity to have a workshop on it, play the organ, and hear the organ in the church acoustic, and of course the organ will feature in every performance in the Warren Catholic church. There are two performances where we will have substantial organ works performed, including Handel’s Organ concerto The Cuckoo and the Nightingale, Albinoni’s Adagio for organ and strings, and Franck’s Panis Angelicus for Soprano, Organ, and Cello.’
Frances was excited to play the Makin instrument herself: ‘I played the organ for the Easter Vigil at the Catholic church: it was so special that it makes me want to train to be a professional organist, and I’d have to fit that in between being a music teacher and a mother too!’
The inaugural Warren Chamber Music Festival took place during the weekend 7th–9th May 2021. The Festival will be presented biannually.

AUTHOR – Richard Flynn