Stavanger’s International Chamber Music Festival is about to commence play on 10 August. Although the musicians are coming and the programme, as ever, promises to be a broad mixture, organising such an event requires a great deal of work behind the scenes. The Foreigner met Emilie Labarchède – a cellist, and the festival’s Managing Director – in the run up to next week’s musical gathering.
Getting everyone to play together
Over the past five seasons, one of her ideas has been to hold a concert in at least one new place annually. New this year is the concert on 11 August on Natvigs Minde – an islet situated in the inner part of Stavanger’s harbour basin.
“Whilst the Grieg Trio is responsible for the programme and artists, it is my job to propose things about the festival’s choice of venues and organisation,” says Emilie.
What with an estimated audience attendance figure of 6,000 this year, approximately 30 international artists, 25 concerts, 8 venues, and the various International Summer Academy’s master classes, it looks as though she has her hands full.
“My job is to look after everyone.”
So how does she do it, with only two permanent staff including her?
“It’s the volunteers. Some of them use part of their annual leave to devote time to the festival. Without them, the festival could not have operated on such a professional level.”
There are 100 of them this year, with all ages and nationalities.
It’s normally difficult for a musician to say who their favourite composer is. What does the French cellist recommend for those who will not be going to all the concerts then?
“It all depends on what type of music you like, of course. If you enjoy Baroque music, try the concert at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday called “La Notte e il Giorno.” If it’s classical, then look out for the lunchtime concert on the Wednesday in Stavanger cathedral with works by Haydn and Mozart. For contemporary music, go and see the pianist Ellen Ugelvik on Sunday playing music by George Crumb, amongst others. Then there are the contrasting opening and closing concerts of course...”
Catering for the audience
For those who haven’t been to it before, the seven-day festival is not just about the programme and the artists. One of the audience-friendly venues this year is the “festival pub” in Stavangeren in Vaisenhusgate, where various light musical treats and glasses of wine will be served.
The festival also provides a baby-sitting service for parents wishing to go to the evening concerts, and a picnic concert with transport provided at Utstein Monastery (Kloster). If you don’t feel like bringing your own children, then why not take advantage of the service?; if you don’t feel like bringing your own food, various specialities will be served during the interval, one of them being warm fish soup.
Unfortunately, there won’t be any fireworks to round the evening off, though.
“We are an environmentally-conscious festival,” Emilie grins.
For new audiences, there is a classic club in Cementen in Nedre Strandgate, with a concert given by the Stockholm Chamber Brass ensemble. Musically-speaking, you could be listening to anything from the 16th Century upwards. It’s anybody’s guess really.
The day the music (nearly) died
Every festival has its outtakes; 2007’s was a Catch 22. The St. Petersbourg Chamber Choir was to give a concert on Flor and Fjære – located on an island called “Sør Hidle”, 20 minutes away by boat.
“For one reason or another, there wasn’t enough space for all the choir in the boat we’d provided. At the last minute, a friend arrived in his own boat to take them there. Everything worked out in the end, though,” she says.
Talk about making an entrance.
This year’s festival will be Emilie’s last. After her share of ups, downs, cadenzas, and artists’ temperaments, she is moving back to France to take on another job.
“Every winter, with its dark days and rainy weather, I have sworn that it would be my last; every summer, I change my mind because of the wonderful light here. However, I do miss the warmth and the blue sky in the south of France,” sighs Emilie.
In the words of ABBA: “Thank you for the music”.
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