Style chats with mu­si­cal fame Katie Noo­nan

Style Magazine - - Contents - BY LISA MACHIN

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.”


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