The 21st Wangaratta Jazz Festival will be held this weekend. The festival is widely regarded as Australia’s premier jazz event.
The festival starts on Friday (October 29) and finishes on Monday (November 1). You can hear overseas acts like Grammy Award winning singer Kurt Elling. Trumpet player James Morrison is one of many Australian performers.
Jazz and blues performers
Over 70 festival events are spread over 10 venues. Venues include the newly built Performing Arts Centre and the magnificent Holy Trinity Cathedral.
International performers playing at the festival include:
- American saxophonist Oliver Lake and his Organ Quartet
- Portuguese singer Sara Serpa
- Belgian pianist Jef Neve and his trio
- English trombonist Roy Williams
- American blues Singer Debbie Davies.
The program also includes classic jazz from performers like the Swedish Jazz Kings and Sydney trumpeter Geoff Bull. The blues program includes acts like Diesel, The Backsliders and Dutch Tilders.
Australian performers include:
- Drummer Allan Browne and his quintet
- The Catholics
- Singer pianist Sarah McKenzie and her sextet
- The Dilworths
- Bell Award-wining vocalist Kristin Berardi
- Blues singer and guitarist Fiona Boyes.
The National Jazz Awards will be judged at the festival. This year the award concentrates on brass instruments. The winner receives $8000 plus a studio recording session.
The Wangaratta Art Gallery is also currently running a jazz-related art exhibition. Other festival events include a street market on Sunday morning featuring many local food producers.
The festival has a relaxed atmosphere. Roads are blocked to traffic to create a street festival. Food and wine stalls can be found near most venues. Wangaratta’s population is just 16,000, but last year around 30,000 people attended the festival over four days. Fortunately, there was still plenty of room to move around.
A festival pass to all venues over the four days costs $180. There are also individual day passes and venue specific tickets. Concession tickets are also available. Free performances occur from 10am each day at the Reid Street stage.
Getting around Wangaratta
Nearly all of central Wangaratta has tactile at intersections and crossings. The only festival venue without easy wheelchair access is St Patrick’s Hall. Wheelchair access at St Patrick’s is through the rear door. Guide dogs are permitted in all venues. Most venues have accessible toilets. All others have accessible public facilities nearby. A mobility map showing facilities for people with a disability is available from the Wangaratta council (opens new window).
Wangaratta Taxis has three Maxi Taxis running 24 hours a day during the festival. Bookings are recommended.
Travel and accommodation
A number of motels and hotels in Wangaratta have rooms for people with a disability. But those rooms are usually heavily booked in advance of the festival. Nearby towns with alternative accommodation include Benalla and Beechworth.
Wangaratta is a two-and-half hour drive along the Hume Highway from Melbourne. The Sydney to Melbourne XPT train stops at Wangaratta. A V/Line train also runs from Melbourne to Seymour, with a bus linking Seymour to Wangaratta.