The Organs of the Ballarat Goldfields Festival turns 21! By Russell Luckock TWENTY-ONE year olds are celebrated in our society and so it was with the recent Organs of the Ballarat Goldfields Festival. For it was in 1995 that Sergio de Pieri OAM discovered that many of the pipe organs in the churches and halls of Ballarat’s goldfields region had not been ‘modernised’ with electrification. The funds weren’t available apparently to convert them so they remained as manual instruments with that sweet original sound for the purist’s ear.
Sergio then set about finding musicians of high calibre to play these pipe organs and other instruments. And since then the Organs of the Ballarat Goldfields Festival has blossomed into a notable event each January with a dedicated board, director, musicians and enthusiastic local, Melbourne and interstate attendees, many of whom keep coming back. Czech organist, Pavel Kohout, who played at the Loreto College Chapel was struck by the uniqueness of the Ballarat Festival especially in contrast to Europe’s concerts. He remarked on the conviviality, the friendliness and the camaraderie amongst musicians and patrons alike.
Musicians like Massimo Scattolin– guitarist supremo who plays in venues all over the world – and who first played at this Festival eleven years ago in the Clunes church hall on a decidedly hot day. The hall was packed and the crowd began spilling on to the footpath outside. So Sergio asked Massimo to do a second concert immediately afterwards. This second concert was memorable to Massimo for having to play it again in 42 degree heat – but it was also memorable to his audience! For current festival goers from Melbourne, Domenica and Keith Ashworth, still remember the standing ovation that Massimo received for his repeat performance back then despite the heat. Such is the standing of musicians that Sergio attracts to the Ballarat goldfields each year. In addition, the dinners that he cooks up for the musicians during the Festival are legendary with the home-style Italian cooking that his brother Stefano brought to the attention of Australian TV audiences. What better way to celebrate that 21st milestone – every year!