The Ukaria Cultural Centre wasn’t spared a penny when it was built, and the $7 million chamber music venue is now starting to hit the high notes.
Opened in 2015, Ukaria was backed by Jurlique co-founder and philanthropist Ulrike Klein, and is sequestered near Mount Barker in the rolling green of the Adelaide Hills.
“Its beauty really took my breath. For me it was at the end like an instrument in its own right,” a satisfied Ms Klein said as she looked around Ukaria.
The secret to Ukaria’s acoustics lies in its the design — the height of the ceiling and the materials are two of the critical ingredients for providing a pure sound.
“Every piece of wood that you see in this hall has been placed and calculated,” Ukaria chief executive officer Alison Beare said.
“There is not one element in this building that is random.”
Those involved in building the centre took pride in the end product, Ms Klein added.
“You could hear voices singing out of the building with the tradies trying out the acoustics.”
Until now, Ukaria has built its reputation as a venue for classical music.
But it is in the midst of expanding its 2018 program to accommodate growing demand from both audiences and professional artists.
Legendary singer-songwriter Paul Kelly will feature at Ukaria next year, as those running the venue seek to broaden its appeal.
But performers who have already graced Ukaria’s stage are in no doubt about its musical merits.
“[It’s] possessed of the rarest and most essential qualities required for a hall, which is great warmth and great clarity,” Adelaide Symphony Orchestra (ASO) cellist Simon Cobcroft said.
Part of the venue’s appeal is its intimacy. It seats an audience of just 220, with those at the front only metres from the musicians.
“They can see every expression, [all] the facial expressions, our muscles sort of working away and that’s all part of it,” ASO Concert Master Natsuko Yoshimoto said.
The intimacy brings all sorts of experiences for performers.
“I played a concert there once and I suppose I should be flattered by this — somebody was sitting in the front row sketching me, but it was a bit of a distraction I should say,” Cobcroft said.
Such has been Ukaria’s success that national and international artists are now flocking to the Adelaide Hills venue.
“We have musicians from overseas asking if they could perform here. I wouldn’t have dreamt that, that’s just absolutely amazing,” Ms Klein said.
Ms Beare said she was delighted but shocked when the agent for the internationally renowned Swedish mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter approached her to see if she could perform in the Adelaide Hills while in Australia.
Ms Beare quickly said yes, and then approached the Adelaide Festival. The end result is that von Otter will perform at Ukaria in early March.
Ms Klein is proud of her venue and said every dollar she put into it was money well spent.
However, she bemoaned what she sees as an overall lack of money being put into Adelaide’s arts infrastructure.
“We are really a festival city, so wonderful in its size,” she said.
“It saddens me that we don’t have that [commitment].
“But for me, [Ukaria is] set up in a way that hopefully will never be depending on public funding.”
When Ukaria opened sales for its 2018 season recently, it sold more than 3,000 tickets in its first one-and-a-half weeks.