Voices ring out over Hobart as winter festival reunites community

Hobart’s Festival of Voices returns, welcoming back choirs and singers from across Australia for 12 days of workshops and performances.

The pandemic has taught us all how vital community is to our health and happiness. For choral singers across the country, the chance to once more perform and meet in person is a welcome relief as Festival of Voices returns again in 2021.

Joan Wright OAM, the Choral Producer, Curator and Presenter of Festival of Voices, said COVID made people realise just how much they missed coming together to sing.

‘People have said they didn’t realise how important singing in ensembles was, and that COVID made them really appreciate that this is not just about singing – it’s about belonging to a group, it’s about mixing with various people who have the same interests,’ she told ArtsHub.

Wright added: ‘I think it’s really important that we’re providing opportunities to people; the most important thing is to bring people back together.’

To great disappointment the event was cancelled in 2020, so this year’s bumper program includes an emphasis on choral, contemporary and cabaret works featuring Australian singers and composers.

There’s also a focus on educational workshops, with over 20 participatory events to choose from, including a workshop on The Art of Versatile Singing (which empowers participants to sing any genre including classical, jazz, rock and pop) and a Musical Theatre Masterclass. For less experienced singers, the Havacrackapella Workshop is open to all singing skill levels.

Wright believes the festival can convert anyone into a singer and emphasises that anyone is welcome. ‘There’s no such thing as people who can’t learn to sing. Who doesn’t sing the football songs for goodness sake?’ she laughed. ‘There are just these false barriers that exist. Everyone can sing, and that’s what our festival is about.’

For those already in a choir, the festival is your best opportunity to perform at some of Tasmania’s most picturesque venues, from museums to markets, libraries to leading hotels.

Choir packages such as the Tasmanian Choir Package and Visiting Choir Package give participants a range of singing experiences from pop-up indoor concerts to exclusive events at the festival designed specifically to make it the best experience for choirs.

Uniting those with a passion for singing

Since it began in 2004, the festival has been bringing audiences together. It was the first Tasmanian winter festival to introduce bonfires as a central theme in which an iconic image sees thousands singing around the fire in Salamanca Place.

Although COVID restrictions may limit crowds, the focus has shifted to appreciate Australian singers.

‘The international programs have vanished, but it’s made people stop and think about what we’ve got in Australia,’ she said.

This year’s major performances include the premiere of composer Don Kay’s work Conflagration, about the Australian bushfires, and an Australian Voices Choir performance accompanied by Hobart Chamber Orchestra.

There are also over 600 young performers from across the state taking part in Tasmania Sings and a Finale Concert – where all the workshop participants get to showcase their voices in a major spine-tingling concert featuring over 400 performers.

The festival has a COVID-safe plan and Wright has seen firsthand at local choral concerts just how respectful audiences are as they come out to enjoy performances once more.

She says this is just a taste of things to come when Festival of Voices resumes in June.

‘You know singing is so important in that people will just be euphoric about being able to go to a live concert,’ she said. ‘I think Festival of Voices is going to fill that void that’s been there for 12 months. And then really bring people together for the joy of singing.’

Festival of Voices runs from 30 June – 11 July 2021. Full program coming soon.