Style chats with musical fame Katie Noonan
The Australian newspaper described Katie Noonan’s voice as “like warm honey being decanted into melting snow. It is such a thing of beauty that finding a vessel to hold it can be difficult.”
Toowoomba fans were first introduced to her captivating voice through her former band George, which played at The Empire Theatre.
Katie Noonan also played as a solo act in Toowoomba for The Carnival of Flowers Food and Wine Festival last year.
Now Katie returns to the region in her capacity as artistic director for the Queensland Music Festival, which brings an eclectic range of musical performances and interactive experiences to the state.
Held in locations from Toowoomba, Dalby and Warwick through to the northern communities such as Cape York and Mt Isa and western townships of Boonah, Goondiwindi, Cunnamulla, Quilpie, Bedourie, Charleville, Barcaldine and Longreach, as well as coastal towns along the way, it is a huge project to oversee.
Hailing from Brisbane, the Darling Downs and Western Downs are parts of the world Katie knows well, with her first Toowoomba gig as a support act for Vanessa Amorosi at The Empire Theatre.
Katie’s brother also spent time living in Dalby, and the family – Katie, her brother and their parents – performed at the prestigious biannual event, Opera at
Jimbour, in 2009.
Held at Jimbour Homestead on the grand colonial station near Bell the event returns this July.
“It’s almost 10,000 people in a paddock in front of this beautiful sandstone homestead, it’s such an awesome event,” Katie says.
Opera at Jimbour will be one of the many events Katie co-ordinates in her new role as artistic director, and the heightened professional responsibility is paralleled by a new direction for her music and look also.
Gone are the long, red curls audiences knew her for when she was fronting George – replaced with an edgy partially shaved faux-hawk.
“It’s so much quicker,” she says of the new style.
“Mind you, I never really wore my big hair out.
“I do spend more time at the hairdresser but I don’t have to do anything to it now.”
Katie’s music has undergone a similar transformation too. She has teamed up with guitarist Karin Schaupp to create a twist on classical and Latin music with the same hauntingly beautiful sound that characterises all Katie Noonan’s work.
“My music has changed a lot – I was a young girl becoming a young woman in George so it was very much a documentation of trying to find my way into adulthood,” Katie says.
“At my last gig with George I was 27 and pregnant with my first-born boy and about to embark on the next chapter of life as mum and wife.
“Now I have Dexter, 10, and Jonah, 12, two amazing boys, and am happily married to my beautiful husband.”
Also a musician, Katie’s husband Zac Hurren is accomplished in his own right as both a saxophonist and composer.
The pair met at the Brisbane Conservatorium of Music in 1996.
“When I saw him for the first time we both felt this pretty crazy connection and I went home to my housemate and said ‘I think I saw my soulmate today’,” she says.
The pair didn’t begin dating until a few years after meeting, but have now chalked up 18 years together and 13 years of marriage, as well as 20 years as bandmates.
Both their boys have inherited their parents’ talent for music.
“My husband and I moved out of the city when they were born and we have brought them up without TV. They can still watch shows, but television is not a part of our household really,” Katie says. “They are extremely creative souls. “Jonah is soccer mad, Dexter plays guitar, and both play drums well and have beautiful voices.”
The family now lives at Eumundi in the Sunshine Coast hinterland and their boys’ privacy is something Katie is mindful of.
“We are living in quite a strange time in terms of exposure to the internet. I see the internet as a great thing, but want to protect them from it when they are young and teach them to use it wisely when they are older,” she says.
“Dexter is in high school next year so he will get a phone then.
“No one has seen pictures of my kids; I’ve protected their right to privacy.”
Since taking on the role of artistic director with the Queensland Music Festival, Katie has used her position to shine a light on an important issue in society – that of family and domestic violence.
She will be joined on stage by a line-up of stars, as well as event patron Dame Quentin Bryce, domestic and family violence campaigner Rosie Batty, and Allison Baden-clay’s sister Vanessa Fowler.
Katie has spearheaded an anti family and domestic violence campaign by using John Farnham’s iconic song You’re The Voice to rally people everywhere to sing along in an interactive performance.
Within 24 hours of launching, 4000 people had registered to sing along to the song, with the message that communities will raise their voices against family and domestic violence.
“The lyrics are perfect because it shows that we as a community are not going to sit in silence on this, and we have John’s blessing to use the song to raise awareness for this important issue,” she says.
“Artists have a responsibility to do good with their music in whatever way that may be, whether offering a positive resolution to a difficult subject, or offering hope, or to lead by example.
“We can use music as a powerful tool for change and not being afraid to have an opinion that may help shed light and educate on issues that are important is part of that.”
The Queensland Music Festival will showcase performances from Cape York to Cunnamulla and “everything in between” at 45 locations.
It will showcase seven world premieres, one of which will be hosted by Toowoomba.
“As artistic director, it’s my responsibility to shine a light on other amazing musicians,” Katie says.
“I was incredibly excited, pretty freaked out. It’s an enormous responsibility to be granted this position.”
Toowoomba audiences will have access to performances in Warwick as part of the Jumpers and Jazz Festival as well as Toowoomba and the Opera at Jimbour.
“I had really strong visions for what I had in mind – I’m a fiercely strong Queenslander and believe in all forms of self-expression and shining a light on that and empowering Queenslanders to be a part of that,” Katie says.
“It is the most inclusive artform; it makes a stranger a friend straight away.
“Music is for everyone.”
‘OPERA AT JIMBOUR’ WILL BE HELD IN JULY AT JIMBOUR HOUSE