Niche music rides a new wave

Australian Chamber Orchestra

Australian Chamber Orchestra at TarraWarra.
Source: Supplied

“NICHE markets are the best, I reckon,” says Richard Tognetti.

Last weekend, in the Yarra Valley, this acclaimed violinist proved the point when he led an Australian Chamber Orchestra Festival at the TarraWarra Museum of Art and thrilled audiences with three concerts (and a masterclass) over two days.

Tognetti wants it to be an annual event (an autumn festival is proposed for 2013) and is encouraging the idea of micro-festivals: tightly focused cultural events appealing to a strictly limited number of people.

“With big rock events, I never know which way to look,” he says. “I prefer a smaller, more immersive experience.”

For models, Tognetti looks to the Niseko Winter Music Festival in northern Japan – which the ACO has twice attended – and the Ojai classical music festival in California “where you’ve got one thousand people concentrated on the one thing”.

Talking up micro-festivals, Tognetti draws a parallel with the dominance of big-name surf brands: “Look at surf merchandising … they used to be made by surfers for surfers. Now, they’ve been taken over by marketing giants who have little interest in creativity.

“The same thing can happen with classical music where it just becomes a commodity. Go and create your own idea, I say.”

Speaking of surfing, Tognetti confirms Melbourne will see the ACO’s “most adventurous project to date”, a performance called The Reef. “It just won’t be this year,” he says.

“We’ve got an out of town try-out at the Sydney Opera House!”

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