Tasmania’s Stories

VDB brings back baroque

Edition 184_VDB

Baroque music and Tasmania have had a tumultuous relationship: two years of acclaimed festivals in 2013-14; a stormy departure by impresario Leo Schofield; two years of silence; and now a triumphant return.

The Van Diemen's Band has struck up, almost magically, in 2017 to bring world-class baroque back to the State.

The artfully named ensemble was founded by one of Australia's finest violinists, Julia Fredersdorff.

She told Limelight magazine: "After two amazing years of Hobart Baroque and the subsequent departure of that festival, I found it increasingly frustrating that I had absolutely no opportunity to perform in my home State, despite an obvious enthusiasm for period performance.

"Hobart Baroque had proven that there was a real appetite for baroque music here, but there seemed to be a big gap in the market.

"So one day I was driving along Sandy Bay Road and suddenly the name ‘Van Diemen’s Band’ popped into my head, like some kind of epiphany.

"I thought to myself: ‘It’s a sign! I have to do this!'

The first performances more than justified her decision.

“The first concert was at a level of excellence that almost exceeded my expectations," Ms Fredersdorff said.

Critic Martyn Goddard wrote: "Perhaps to their slight surprise, given that this was a new orchestra nobody had heard of, listeners found a performance of world class.

"The Van Diemen’s Band is bloody good!"

Ms Fredersdorff said: "Apart from nourishing Tasmania with this wonderful and varied style of music, I feel that the exotic location and the frontier-like landscape are the perfect backdrop for an orchestra such as this.

"I am taking inspiration from this incredibly wild and largely untouched island to discover and explore little-known repertoire, and in turn introduce it to our audiences.

"My idea is to bring colleagues from overseas and from mainland Australia to come and inspire the local audiences, and to have a team of musicians who can rotate their responsibilities so everybody feels equally involved.

"After all, a small orchestra is still a chamber music ensemble!

"In addition to this, each time we bring a guest artist from overseas or interstate, our plan is to hold education workshops concurrently, so that local musicians can benefit from their expertise."

VDB’s (it's almost a shame to use an acronym) staged its first concerts in Hobart and Launceston as part of the 10 Days on the Island festival.

Cello Napoletano featured music by 18th-century composer, Nicola Fiorenza, whose works are rarely heard.

The ensemble's next engagement, Tin Shed Baroque, was performed in the former Gunns Ltd woodchip plant at Triabunna.

"It is a wonderful juxtaposition, to have the grand and formal structure of baroque music juxtaposed against a tin shed!" Ms Fredersdorff said.

"Not only that, but a tin shed on a wood chip plant looking out on the beautiful Tasmanian wilderness, including Maria Island.

"I love this kind of concert, playing baroque music in new and poignant buildings, which have their own very special history and atmosphere.

"The relaxed atmosphere of a shed has the added bonus of breaking down the audience/performer barrier, and I feel that the less formal the concert is, the more we can communicate and draw the audience in."

Melbourne-born Ms Fredersdorff studied early music at the Royal Conservatory in the Hague, Netherlands, with the soloists in the group's first concerts, cellist Catherine Jones and baritone David Greco.

Following the success of the initial performances, Ms Fredersdorff is aspiring to "lots of discovery, collaboration, education, and bringing audiences the best baroque music we can find."

She wants to continue to involve her favourite performers from around Australia and the world.

"Eventually I would love to find a way for us to tour, but for the moment, we are concentrating on getting ourselves established in our home State and building our own identity."

The exciting chamber orchestra has completed its first recording Cello Napoletano, a CD under the ABC Classics label, which is scheduled for release in October 2017.

Music of the baroque ‒ roughly, the period between 1600 and 1750 ‒ is the only classical music that is displaying growth in the age of the internet.

Goddard wrote: "Although symphony orchestras playing the 19th century repertoire dominate the airwaves and government Arts funding, worldwide audiences are [declining] both for live performance and for sales of recordings.

"For baroque music, it is the opposite.

"Ever since the revival of authentic performances in the 1960s and 1970s, the classical music world has seen the same trends: a decline in big symphony orchestras and a constant growth in the much smaller baroque ensembles."

Baroque music developed in Europe before the construction of major concert halls.

By necessity it was performed by smaller groups of musicians than modern orchestras, so it is relatively affordable.

It is more improvised in style, being sometimes compared with jazz.

Leo Schofield saw a likely match in the genre and Hobart's timeless Theatre Royal.

He initiated Hobart Baroque which won many plaudits before it was shifted to Brisbane following a falling out over State funding, but the festival has now wound up.

Hopefully, VDB will have a future more closely aligned to the genre's increasing global popularity.

VDB's next concert will be at a chamber music festival at Evandale in October.

Image courtesy of Van Diemen's Band

6 June 2017, Edition 184

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Facts about Tasmania


Tasmania is the southernmost state of Australia, located at latitude 40° south and longitude 144° east and separated from the continent by Bass Strait. It is a group of 334 islands, with the main island being 315 km (180 miles) from west to east and 286 km (175 miles) north to south.


Tasmanians are resourceful and innovative people, committed to a continually expanding export sector. In 2012-13, international exports from the state totalled $3.04 billion. USA, China, Taiwan, India, Japan and other Asian countries account for the bulk of exports, with goods and services also exported to Europe and many other regions.


Tasmania is similar in size to the Republic of Ireland or Sri Lanka. The Tasmanian islands have a combined coastline of more than 3,000 km.


The main island has a land area of 62,409 sq km (24,096 sq miles) and the minor islands, taken together, total only 6 per cent of the main island's land area. The biggest islands are Flinders (1,374 sq km/539 sq miles), King, Cape Barren, Bruny and Macquarie Islands.


About 250km (150 miles) separates Tasmania’s main island from continental Australia. The Kent Group of Islands, one of the most northerly parts of the state, is only 55km (34 miles) from the coast of the Australian continent.


Twice named 'Best Temperate Island in the World' by international travel magazine Conde Nast Traveler, Tasmania has a mild, temperate maritime climate, with four distinct seasons.


In summer (December to February) the average maximum temperature is 21° Celsius (70° Fahrenheit). In winter (June to August) the average maximum is 12° C (52° F) and the average minimum is 4° C (40° F). Snow often falls in the highlands, but is rarely experienced in more settled areas.

Annual Rainfall

Tasmania’s west coast is one of the wettest places in the world, but the eastern part of the State lives in a rain-shadow. Hobart, the second-driest capital city in Australia, receives about half as much rain as Sydney.

Annual Rainfall

Annual rainfall in the west is 2,400 mm (95 inches), but hardy locals insist there is no such thing as bad weather, only inadequate clothing. If you travel 120 km east to Hobart, you experience a much drier average of 626 mm (24 inches) a year.


The 512,875-strong community spreads itself across the land; less urbanised than the population of any other Australian state. Hobart, the capital city, is home to more than 212,000 people.

Capital City

Hobart nestles at the foot of Mt Wellington (1,270 m / 4,000 ft) and overlooks the Derwent Estuary, where pods of dolphins and migrating whales are sometimes seen from nearby beaches. Surrounded by thickly forested rolling hills, the city is home to the state parliament and the main campus of the University of Tasmania.

Capital City

Its historic centre features Georgian and Regency buildings from colonial times. Hobart is home port for coastal fishing boats, Antarctic expeditions and vessels that fish the Southern Ocean.

Land Formation

Mountain ranges in the south-west date back 1,000 million years. Ancient sediments were deeply buried, folded and heated under enormous pressure to form schists and glistening white quartzites.

Land Formation

In the south-west and central highlands, dolerite caps many mountains, including Precipitous Bluff and Tasmania's highest peak, Mt Ossa (1617 m / 5300 ft). More than 42 per cent of Tasmania is World Heritage Area, national park and marine or forest reserves.


Vegetation is diverse, from alpine heathlands and tall open eucalypt forests to areas of temperate rainforests and moorlands, known as buttongrass plains. Many plants are unique to Tasmania and the ancestors of some species grew on the ancient super-continent, Gondwana, before it broke up 50 million years ago.


Unique native conifers include slow-growing Huon pines, with one specimen on Mt Read estimated to be up to 10,000 years old. Lomatia tasmanica, commonly known as King's holly, is a self-cloning shrub that may well be the oldest living organism on earth. It was discovered in 1937.


Tasmania is the last refuge of several mammals that once roamed the Australian continent. It is the only place to see a Tasmanian devil or eastern quoll (native cat) in the wild and is the best place to see the spotted-tailed quoll (tiger cat), all carnivorous marsupials.


The eastern bettong and the Tasmanian pademelon, both now extinct on the Australian continent, may also be observed.


The Tasmanian tiger, or thylacine, was Australia's largest surviving carnivorous marsupial and is a modern day mystery. The last documented thylacine died in captivity in 1936 and although the animal is considered extinct, unsubstantiated sightings persist.

History and Heritage

Aboriginal people have lived in Tasmania for about 35,000 years, since well before the last Ice Age. They were isolated from the Australian continent about 12,000 years ago, when the seas rose to flood low coastal plains and form Bass Strait.

History and Heritage

Descendants of the original people are part of modern Tasmania's predominantly Anglo-Celtic population.

History and Heritage

Tasmania was originally named Van Dieman’s Land by the Dutch explorer Abel Janszoon Tasman in 1642. The island was settled by the British as a penal colony in 1803 and the original name was associated with the convict era. It was changed to Tasmania when convict transportation stopped in 1853.


A resourceful island culture has generated leading-edge niche industries, from production of high-speed catamaran ferries and marine equipment to lightning-protection technology.


Tasmanians produce winches and windlasses for some of the world's biggest ocean-going pleasure craft; large-scale inflatable evacuation systems and provide specialist outfit-accommodation services to the marine industry.


The Wooden Boat Centre at Shipwrights Point has re-established the skills and traditions of another age and attracts students from around the world.


Tasmania is a world leader in natural turf systems for major sporting arenas and in areas of mining technology and environmental management. Its aquaculture industry has developed ground-breaking fish-feeding technology and new packaging.


Tasmanians sell communications equipment to many navies and their world-class fine timber designers and craftsmen take orders internationally for furniture made from distinctive local timber.


The state is a natural larder with clean air, unpolluted water and rich soils inviting the production of 100 varieties of specialty cheeses, as well as other dairy products, mouth-watering rock lobsters, oysters, scallops and abalone, Atlantic salmon, beef, premium beers, leatherwood honey, mineral waters, fine chocolates, fresh berry fruits, apples and crisp vegetables.


Tasmania is a producer of award-winning cool-climate wines, beers, ciders and whiskies. Other export products include essential oils such as lavender, pharmaceutical products and premium wool sought after in Europe and Asia. Hobart is a vital gateway to the Antarctic and a centre for Southern Ocean and polar research.


The industries in Tasmania which made the greatest contribution to the state's gross product in 2010-11 in volume terms were: Manufacturing (9.4%), Health care and social assistance (8.2%), Financial and insurance services (7.2%), Ownership of dwellings and Agriculture, forestry and fishing (each 7.1%).

Getting to Tasmania

Travel is easy, whether by air from Sydney or Melbourne, or by sea, with daily sailings of the twin ferries Spirit of Tasmania 1 and 2 each way between Melbourne and Devonport throughout the year.

This site has been produced by the Brand Tasmania Council © 2014

Brand Tasmania

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