Our Festival Story

World-class music | Intimate performances | Unique peninsula places

Our Festival was founded by Artistic Director Julia Fredersdorff, Paris-based at the time, she would spend her European summer on the festival circuit. While back in Australia one Christmas, she realised just how many fantastic expat musicians were here visiting family. Joining forces with arts manager Jennifer Kerr, their shared vision of utilising unique venues on the Peninsula for chamber music made it the perfect setting for a summer festival in the European style – sparking the first Peninsula Summer Music Festival in 2008.

With the generous support of founding donor, Charles Keifel OAM, our first performance took place on 03 January 2008 at Montalto Vineyard and Olive Grove. That inaugural Festival featured just six performances over four days, including Australian mezzo-soprano Sally Anne Russell and period instrument ensemble, Ironwood.

By 2011 the Festival had grown, and again in the European tradition, a Festival Academy was added, giving young musicians the opportunity to work intensively in a residential setting alongside some of the world’s leading musicians. The first Academy took place under the direction of Martin Gester from the French ensemble Le Parlement de Musique directing Rameau’s Opera, Pigmalion – an ambitious first project which proved to be a highlight of the 2011 Festival.

From this success, and with the support a new Major Sponsor, Hummingbird Eco Retreat, the Festival expanded in 2012 offering a second week of programming. This allowed us flexibility to incorporate more diverse music including family-friendly, contemporary, jazz and world music, while still retaining the Festival’s roots in early and classical chamber music.

Dido and Aeneas, 2014
Dido and Aeneas, 2014

In 2014, another landmark; two fully-staged performances of Purcell’s opera Dido and Aeneas at Mornington Community Theatre, directed by Kenneth Weiss, Internationally-acclaimed harpsichordist from The Julliard School New York. The production featured one of Australia’s finest singers, Fiona Campbell, a cast of young soloists, chorus and a full period instrument orchestra.

Today, our reputation firmly established, the Festival has evolved into an important event on the Mornington Peninsula calendar, recognised for imaginative programming and intimate performances.

Making the most of the weather and high-visitation to the Peninsula each January, the Festival continues to feature Australian musicians who live overseas playing in the world’s leading ensembles and who are returning home at Christmas, while showcasing Australia-born, Australian-based or Australian-trained artists. Through this model, we present world-class performances locally on the Mornington Peninsula.

The growing reputation of our Festival has meant that we have been able to attract high-profile International artists, while our programing continues to include accessible music that appeals to a wide demographic.

We’ve hosted many leading International artists, such as Nicola Boud – principal clarinet of the Orchestre de Champs Elysees, Nils Wieboldt – principal cello of the Musiciens du Louvre, Deirdre Dowling – principal viola of the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra, and Catherine Martin – leader of the Gabrieli Consort, as well as brilliant Australian artists such as the Seraphim Trio, the Acacia Quartet, Benaud Trio, Joe Chindamo, Zoe Black, and Latitude 37.

We showcase regional wines and produce, the local arts and cultural community, while promoting the Mornington Peninsula as a tourist destination. The quality of our program is reinforced through association with the finest local venues, collaborations and creative partnerships. Our 2016 Festival presents 19 performances over 10 days, featuring 65 artists drawn from around the world, while also providing opportunities to profile local acts.

The objectives of our festival are simple:

        • To enrich the cultural and social life of the region offering affordable and accessible fine music
        • To engage our community with artists of renown in unique Mornington Peninsula places
        • To attract visitors to the region by partnering with the local business and tourism sectors
        • To inspire and educate young musicians of the Mornington Peninsula