Choosing a water theme for this year’s Music by the Springs Festival opening night concert was easy, according to Artistic Director Stewart Kelly. It was the obvious choice in a region like Hepburn Springs with its abundance of day spas and mineral springs. Little did he know how prophetic his theme would be, as the skies over Peppers Hotel timed their opening to coincide exactly with the aptly titled ‘So much to C’ welcome concert.

Stewart Kelly. Photograph © Elizabeth Quinn

The weather conditions did nothing to dampen the spirits of those gathered in the festival ‘concert hall’, the hotel lounge room. Birthday boy Beethoven’s Piano Quartet in C (pun intended) major – written when he was a teenager – opened the program with a performance by Elizabeth Layton (violin), Tom Higham (viola), Edith Salzmann (cello) and Stewart Kelly (piano) that combined the exuberance of youth with the sense of an experienced hand at the tiller. 

Timothy Young and Laurence Matheson’s rendition of Debussy’s La Merpiano duet – alternately playful, menacing and roiling – was like the sea itself, as was the constant movement of the four hands over the keys. It was...