Welcome to the inaugural Festival of the Voice!

Welcome to the inaugural Festival of the Voice!

Song Dynasty Music Events is a recent recipient of the annual CASP small grants program managed by Arts Northern Rivers on behalf of Create NSW.

We recently caught up with Janet Swain from Song Dynasty Music Events and project partner Brett Haylock from the Brunswick Picture House to discuss their successful project, The Festival of the Voice.


Q1 – Janet and Brett, congratulations! Can you tell us some more about the successful project?

J: The Festival of the Voice is a pretty exciting and unique program, bringing together both locals and professionals from around the country to work and perform together over 9 days, in the beautiful seaside village of Brunswick Heads, just north of Byron Bay.

The CASP (Country Arts Support Program) grant is specifically to develop a schools program led by singer and choir director Tobias Cole from Canberra. Toby came up and sang as part of our Festival for Elizabeth – well, Festival is the word we used for essentially a single concert to celebrate the 80th birthday of my mother, and well known choir director, Elizabeth Swain.

We wanted to make sure local kids were a part of this larger Festival project – and he will be working with several schools including Brunswick Heads, Mullumbimby, Ocean Shores and The Pocket Public Schools and Cape Byron Rudolph Steiner School. All schools have been learning three songs to sing together, and will come together to do combined workshops with Toby culminating in a huge combined schools concert at Brunswick Heads Public School, performing amongst other pieces a work by local singer/songwriter Aine Tyrrell.


Q2This is not the only collaboration between the Song Dynasty Music Events and Brunswick Picture House, can you tell us more about your partnership and your other collaborative projects? 

B: in the three years since we opened the Picture House we’ve been building our live music program. We’ve been collaborating on various projects with Janet and SDME over two years – Janet runs the popular Big Sing class every Monday and Saturday morning, and last year we worked together on a small Festival for Elizabeth, and our inaugural Church for all People Christmas Carols event, which was a huge success. A Festival of the Voice is the logical next step. We’ve earned trust with our programming and FOV allows us to bring new talent into the Shire.

J: Brett Chris and Peter have been really supportive of SDME from the beginning, and encouraged us to do Festival for Elizabeth last year, a classical music concert which was a departure from their usual cabaret style programming. It was a risk, but we found that the genre worked beautifully in the Picture House surrounds. Everything we have done at Picture House has been a risk! We had this mad idea to do carols – Real Carols at the Right Time, with no idea whether anyone would come, and to our delight we were absolutely packed out.


Q3What has inspired the creation of this project?

J: There are wonderful Voice Festivals all over the world and of course in Tasmania and Western Australia. When I arrived here in the Shire after living in Singapore for 6 years, I was inspired by the Mullum Music Festival, and it’s use of local venues, creating a fantastic vibe in a small town, and four years ago I began thinking about the possibility of developing own Festival of the Voice. Brunswick Heads is the perfect place – and the Picture House is the perfect venue and collaborating partner. We are also using another hall, just three doors down, as well as the local primary school – all in the same street!


Q4 – We understand you have big ideas for the future of the project, can you tell us more about this? 

J: Brunswick Heads is fast becoming the most popular holiday destination in the Shire, for good reason – it is absolutely beautiful, we have great restaurants and unique shops, and we envisage developing our Festival to become a major event on the arts calendar of the Northern rivers.

We hope to develop both the Carols and the Festival as two ongoing annual events. This Festival is the first – and essentially we are making it up as we go! It started modestly with three days, but it has now developed in to a nine day event, as the Picture House has added two Voices edition Cheeky Cabarets and two cabaret shows and a voice workshop by upcoming star Michaela Burger from Melbourne   We have tried to incorporate as many local choirs and singers as possible, as well as bringing professionals such as Tobias Cole in to the area, just as the Picture House brings well known and interesting new acts to the Cheeky Cabaret. We have workshops and shows, we have a gala launch which includes Welcome to Country alongside Opera and a community choir Big Sing.


Q5 – Can you tell us how the CASP grant will support the project?

The CASP grant will support Tobias Cole to work with school kids for a week during the Festival – we will be holding two large schools workshops as well as a couple of smaller workshops for Mums and Daughters, and Fathers and Sons. We are bringing children together from many local schools, and it is very important to us that this includes local Aboriginal kids, and that we sing some songs in one of the local Aboriginal languages.

Event Details:

24 May – 2 June

For more information visit:

Festival of the Voice

Country Arts Support Program (CASP)