Debbie Kruger
After the 1995 Brisbane Biennial I became the publicist for the Brisbane International Film Festival and also worked on Opera Queensland's 1996 season. So the Biennial knew my standing as an Arts publicist was hard to match, and recruited me for the 1997 Biennial, which by this time had become highly politicized.

The then Queensland Arts Minister, Joan Sheldon, was expected to axe the Biennial for reasons inexplicable even to this day. Although we were preparing to launch the greatest and biggest music festival ever in the southern hemisphere, its future was under a cloud of doubt.

Nevertheless the artistic team of Nicholas Heyward, Richard Mills and Jonathan Mills put together a dazzling program which - together with my PR campaign - would throw the emphasis not on politics but on outstanding international music.

We succeeded brilliantly.

Just don't ask why there's a rhinocerous standing on the piano.

1997 Biennial logo

Nicholas Heyward
Nicholas Heyward confidently reaching for the bubbly. Confident mainly because he already had a new gig lined up at the Adelaide Festival
Jonathan Mills
Jonathan Mills talking the talk... We thought he was doing a media interview, but in fact this was his job interview for the Melbourne Festival
Richard Mills
Richard Mills pondering the future.
"What about a new festival for me?"
There was no doubting the commitment of what I termed the Biennial's "Artistic Triumvirate." If this was to be the last Biennial, it was also going to be the best international music festival Australia would ever see.

The 1997 Biennial was extended to 18 days, with over 50 events and more than 100 performances. It was huge!

1997 Brisbane Biennial program highlights
By the time the Festival opened, it had already been beset with difficulties, including the withdrawal of major events, the death of one of our team, and the announcement at our big launch in February, by Joan Sheldon, of the Biennial's demise after this festival. Despite this bleakness, the music shone through.

The big opera events this time were a concert performance of Korngold's Die Tote Stadt and, for something completely different, the New York drag opera company La Gran Scena.

There was classical music everywhere, with big orchestras, famous conductors and the sounds of Strauss, Schubert, Brahms, Mozart and Mahler straining through the Queensland Performing Arts Centre.

And there was a hefty component of early music, with Ensemble 415, The Harp Consort and Anonymous 4.

Anonymous 4 girls with Debbie
Marsha Genensky and Susan Hellauer of Anonymous 4 with Debbie
Chanticleer at St Johns Cathedral
And the greatest delight was the male a capella group Chanticleer, who set the tone of the whole festival for me. The friendships I made with the guys in this group literally lit up my life and changed its course forever. Click the photo at left to go to a special page about my experience with Chanticleer at the 1997 Biennial.
Contemporary music groups included the Arditti String Quartet, local ensemble Elision, with whom I had worked in 1994 in the NORPA season, and a week of events and forums grouped under the umbrella of Composers Week.

There was a sizeable dance section on the bill, with the highlight being Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo. And there was plenty of world, jazz, rock and gospel music, including the Finnish band Värtinnä, Cape Verde's "Barefoot Diva" Cesaria Evora and the steel band from London via Trinidad, Caribbean Company. Hey, we even had the Wiggles at a kiddie's concert!

Biennial staff passes
And at one time or another, I was working with just about all of them, aided by our trusty marketing assistant - and my good pal - Melissa Cogzell.
Debbie and Melissa
Debbie and Melissa
Caribbean Company and Melissa
Melissa goes troppo with members of
the Caribbean Company

The media were more enthusastic than ever about this Biennial, none more so than the indefatigable crew from ABC Radio National's The Music Show.
The Music Show crew
Debbie and Melissa with the team from The Music Show

After the boys from Chanticleer left town, I was most looking forward to the arrival of La Gran Scena, not the least because its Artistic Director and lead artist, Ira Schiff, was bringing me a special order direct from New York.
Ira Schiff and Debbie
Ira, the alter ego of Vera Galupe-Borszkh,
with Debbie
Debbie with chocolate mocha beans
Debbie holds an essential component of the care package delivered from New York - a tin of Williams Sonoma chocolate mocha beans.
Debbie and some hot chicks
Debbie with the gals from La Gran Scena

Julianne White
Julianne White, smiling at the
end of the Festival

We had a bigger team working on the 1997 Biennial than we had in 1995, but with a much larger program to produce and market, we were still run off our feet. Artistic Administrator Julianne White - who, like me, had vowed not to do the Biennial again after 1995 but found the lure irresistable - was often found taking short naps under her desk, as she almost never went home for a month.

While Mark McGill, our intrepid Development Manager, managed to stay jovial all the while he was plotting his revenge.

Mark McGill
Mark McGill still chasing the dollar to get the singing rhinos on stage with the NZSO
As the entire gestation period of the 1997 Biennial was fraught with difficulties, anything diverting - even kitchen duty - was a relief from daily pressures.
Debbie Does Dishes Debbie Does more Dishes
Take a look at some interesting press material released
in the lead up to the Festival.

And we all missed Denis...

Denis Stokes
Technical Coordinator Denis Stokes,
who passed away six weeks before
the Festival opened.

After the Biennial was put to rest, a new festival, creatively titled the Brisbane Festival, was launched, with Tony Gould, the Director of the Queensland Performing Arts Trust, at the helm.

Two years later, by which time Nicholas Heyward was well entrenched as General Manager of the Adelaide Festival, Jonathan Mills was Director of the Melbourne Festival, and everyone else was gainfully employed - or happily unemployed - elsewhere, the erratic Queensland state government resurrected the Biennial as the Queensland Biennial, with none other than Lyndon Terracini, of NORPA, at the helm. To date he has been having great success with the festival, which is focused on Queensland musicians rather than international artists.

I'm glad I worked on the Biennial at its greatest moment.

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