The past three weeks have been jam-packed full of Festival highlights. We opened with a bang on January 10 with Festival First Night and saved some of the best til last with Dawn Chorus at Bondi Beach on January 31.
We asked Sydney Festival staff for their favourite 'Festival moment', here are some of their responses:
Watching the glow of hundreds of headlights weave down the hill to Balmoral Beach at 4:30am in a silent pilgrimage to Dawn Chorus. The satisfaction of seeing the thousands of people gathered to listen to the gentle and beautiful voices as the tide came in, the sun lifted its head and the birds woke up for another day was a soul-nourishing moment.
Seeing people queuing up to play pianos while they were being installed for Play Me, I’m Yours!
Watching The Domain fill up like a time-lapse camera moment during Festival First Night and being amazed how happy everyone was.
Hearing a capacity crowd of 1300 people singing “What might have been lost” during Bon Iver’s set at the City Recital Hall. Acoustically and spine-tinglingly amazing.
Seeing 150 eager children beating away on African drums inside The Famous Spiegeltent during a Kids in the Garden workshop. Thunderously load, sweaty, chaotic and joyous.
Watching Grace Jones’ audience explode with applause when she appeared in a bejewelled, mirrored Bowler hat to sing Love is the Drug. Then looking up at the ceiling of the Enmore Theatre as it was transformed to a swirling, whirling blizzard of green reflecting laser lights.
Watching Reggie Watts and Camille do an impromptu beat box jam on stage together at the Beck’s Festival Bar – a truly unforgettable Festival moment.
Watching some fantastic dance at Movers & Shakers in Martin Place on Festival First Night, including the hugely mixed audience doing ‘The Sydney’. What a great moment.
Dancing in the Bosco Theater to the sounds of gypsy three-piece band Kaloome at the first Samsung Mobile Secret Show.
A toy falling off its bed mid-performance in Fluff and a very little audience member getting up to put it back.
Glen Hansard opening his set to a full house at the Sydney Opera House, unplugged, with a broken guitar and no mike, and absolutely knocking everyone for six with his compelling passion and talent.
Having to leave Lipsynch after the first hour (just too dang busy!) A wrenching moment filled with pride for the quality of the work we do.
Watching St. Vincent in The Famous Spiegeltent at dusk and wishing I could be as cool as her.
Holding my breath with a whole room of people as the dark literally wrapped around us during the first few minutes of The Tell-Tale Heart.
“I’m a sexy robot!” - No Dice. Best line in a theatre show EVER.
Seeing the queue of hundreds of people outside the Samsung Mobile Festival Garden at midnight to see Matthew Herbert’s Secret DJ set and thinking… I guess we got the word out!
Listening to a couple of thousand feet softly tapping away in unison to Masters of Tradition in the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall.
Seeing people kiss at the Play Me, I’m Yours pianos… me being one of them!
Standing backstage at The Domain during Grace Jones’ set as her paper confetti cannon made it snow for at least a minute. It was magic.
The stillness of the crowd as The Bays blasted their sensational score to Run Lola Run under the stars at Darling Harbour.
Watching my god daughter's face light up and hearing her squeal with delight when she first saw the set of Fluff. Then, listening to 100 kids making frog and chicken noises during the show!
Sunset on Cockatoo Island on the beautiful Barracks Stage of All Tomorrow’s Parties, surrounded by friends and listening to James Blood Ulmer.
Sitting in the Samsung Mobile Festival Garden with some of the actors from the Gate Theatre, enjoying a drink and their company as well as the whole buzzy atmosphere of the Festival.
The intimacy of fingers on a stranger’s face and feeling theirs on mine during The Smile Off Your Face.
Experiencing Lypsynch with my 10 year old daughter, who was meant to be my excuse to leave early as I was very sleep deprived. The production was so enthralling and the marathon of a show so well devised that we both sat transfixed for 9 hours, sharing this very special show with a theatre full of fellow travellers. Eloquent, inspiring and deeply affecting.
Watching Enter the Dragon with thousands of other fans at Darling Harbour as Karsh Kale provided the soundtrack. Everytime Bruce Lee won a fight the crowd would go crazy. We were all cheering him on. It was really fun and kind of exhilarating.
Being so thankful for Wendy Houstoun’s bravery in letting us laugh out loud about contemporary dance during her show Desert Island Dances.
Bon Iver, Spiegeltent, a beer, sunset… Need I say more?
After such a huge month it has to be said the final day was a bit of a highlight – bit like a plane touching down and the shaky walk to the baggage carousel as we all return to normality.
Watching Grace Jones from the photographer’s pit when she actually pointed to a specific photographer and gave him a down-the-lens pose.
When Reggie Watt’s got up at Martina Topley-Bird’s Samsung Mobile Secret Show and provided a drum solo complete with cymbals!
Driving a golf buggy on Cockatoo Island after midnight filled with happy All Tomorrow’s Parties artists and punters.
After the Artist Party I found myself responsible for ensuring two rather inebriated Hungarian actors found there way to their accommodation. I hailed a taxi and was a little alarmed to discover, when I gave the address to the driver, that firstly he had no idea where the hotel was and secondly that his English was as bad as the two Hungarians. I waved them good bye with a smile of slight trepidation and was greatly relieved to see them on stage the following night.
Watching my daughter dance around The Famous Spiegeltent to Dan Zanes & Friends.
The ham, cheese and mustard sandwich in No Dice. Plus - the Jewish-pirate in the show sweating himself to saturation.
The rumbling drums of Jim White taking me to a tumbleweed strewn desert during Bill Callahan’s set in The Famous Spiegeltent.
When Marketa Irglova picked up her guitar to sing a solo at The Swell Season and a member of the audience shouted out “where’s your hoover?” to which she replied “where’s yours?”. The entire audience erupted in laughter but it also made me realise just how much everybody there had fallen in love with the film ‘Once’ and just how magical it was to be there listening to them perform at the Sydney Opera House!
Glen Hansard covering Leonard Cohen’s ‘Famous Blue Raincoat’.
Reggie Watts serenading a bug on the wooden floor of the Bosco Theater as it tried to escape his vibrating beats.
Walking out of the theatre after 9 hours of Lipsynch and feeling so proud that we brought such a special experience to the people of Sydney.
Reading the glowing review for The Promise where the critic had listed every kid’s name (all 21 of them) so they would have a ‘cut-out-and-keep’ memento.
Picking up Grace Jones at 4pm from the hotel for a 5.30pm international departure flight, only for her to say she would like to do some jewelry shopping on the way to the airport! She arrived at the airport at 5.25pm, with jewelry in hand and still managed to get on the flight! Phew!
The fact that at each event we attracted such a range of audiences, all drawn to the magic of Sydney Festival.
Hearing Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova in conversation with Bernard Zuel in Eat Drink Talk Art was a real privilege – who needed to buy a ticket to the concert when one could see and hear them for free? They were both so at ease and so honest and engaging.
Grace Jones hula hooping through an entire song at The Enmore Theatre without dropping a note. Truly impressive!
I was chatting to Misha Alperin and he was telling me how much he loved Australia, the climate, the people etc. but that it was really too far to travel. He suggested, perhaps we could move Australia to where Spain is located and move Spain to where Australia is. Everyone in Europe would be overjoyed to have Australia so close and no-one actually living in Spain would know the difference!
Running into Fergus Linehan’s familiar face in the crowd on Festival First Night and receiving a comforting hug from the mastermind behind it all, before continuing through the craziness!
“Comfort is overrated!” – a quote from Pavol Liska (No Dice Director), after the audience had sat through 4 hours of No Dice in 40 degree heat, without air conditioning.
Having one of the Smile Off Your Face guys show me how he cries on demand after a few drinks in the Samsung Mobile Festival Garden.
Sydney Festival is an international arts festival that ensures Sydney is the place to be for three weeks each January. Its free and ticketed program offers a rich and diverse range of dance, music, theatre, film and talks in locations around the city.