Late in 1995 renowned Italian organist, composer and teacher, Sergio de Pieri was shown some of the wonderful unmodified nineteenth century pipe organs scattered throughout the Central Highlands Goldfields area of Victoria. Sergio is reported to have remarked “This is the place for a Festival”.
He immediately set about convincing many well-known musicians that they should perform in the first “Organs of the Ballarat Goldfields” Festival to be held early in January 1996. With the enthusiastic help a former pupil and subsequently also of a small band of other Ballarat music lovers, the first festival was staged with very few weeks of planning. Musicians were confirmed, programs were finalized, churches were approached, sponsors were convinced, donors were sought and the concept was advertised.
Support came from many areas of the community then on the second Friday in January 1996, came the opening concert of the inaugural season of the “Organs of the Ballarat Goldfields” Festival of Fine Music. It was a success as were the subsequent nine days of music making, dinners and picnics in Ballarat, Daylesford and the surrounding townships.
A Board of local enthusiasts has helped the Festival grow into ten days of fine music making by the most prominent of Australian and international exponents of early music centred on the organ and also with strings, brass, woodwind and voice. Apart from the professional direction, the Festival has always been organized and run by dedicated volunteers.
The Festival is proud to have as its Patron the Governor of Victoria, The Honorable Linda Dessau AC,
The focus of the Festival is not only on music but also on the history of the area, its churches, its public buildings, its parks and gardens and its private homes and properties. Where possible this history is made available to the visitors either through written or oral presentation.
The social aspect of the Festival is most important with an emphasis on picnics and dinners. Each year the meals, particularly the Festival Dinner are popular occasions and well patronized by supporters of the festival.
Following the evening recitals held in Ballarat Sergio and his band of merry helpers entertain the musicians, sponsors and invited guests from the festival family with a tasty Italian meal in the St Patrick's Cathedral Hall. These suppers have become a signature feature of the festival.
Visitors to the Festival come to Ballarat from all over Victoria, most states of Australia and also from the UK, Italy, Germany, the USA and New Zealand specifically for the festival.
The “Festival of Fine Music” has made a particular effort in encouraging local young musicians to perform. This region has many talented young people who have become recognized both nationally and internationally as performers and composers. Over the years the Festival Board has been able to make small contributions toward the upkeep or restoration of some of the historically significant instruments to be found in the local churches.
We believe that the “Organs of the Ballarat Goldfields” Festival of Fine Music has the correct formula to continue as an important facet of the musical life of Victoria and Australia and we warmly invite music lovers to attend Festival.