A CHANCE overnight stopover at Murwillumbah almost 20 years ago led two of the world's very best violinists to call the Tweed home.

Carmel Kaine and John Willison were hunting for a country pro-perty to buy and had driven from Merimbula on the NSW south coast to Noosa on Queensland's Sunshine Coast, but had found nothing appealing.

The couple were heading back to Sydney, but after sleeping at Murwillumbah saw a property advertised for sale near Tyalgum.

They liked it and bought it.

"Within a couple of years, they had founded the first Tyalgum Classical Music Festival.

Tonight, Ms Kaine and Mr Willison will perform on the festival's opening night at the Tyalgum Hall.

Ms Kaine turned 70 earlier this year, while Mr Willison has his 70th birthday coming up in the next few weeks. "The Aldeburgh Festival founded by Benjamin Britten is staged in church halls around Suffolk," Mr Willison said yesterday.

"When I saw the Tyalgum Hall I thought we can do something like Aldeburgh here."

English-born Mr Willison currently teaches at the Queensland Conservatorium and occasionally performs with the Queensland%Orchestra.

He was the youngest scholarship recipient at age 15 with the Royal Academy of Music in London and principal violinist and director of the London Philharmonic Orchestra from 1968 to 1973.

Ms Kaine, born in Wagga Wagga in the Riverina and an acknowledged virtuoso, studied at New York's Julliard School, played with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields and is a Fellow of the Royal Academy.

She also taught at the Queensland Conservatorium.

The pair, founders of the Limpinwood Ensemble, are proud of the success over the past 16 years of the annual Tyalgum Festival, which has attracted a diverse range of world-class vocalists and musicians playing strings, piano, wind, brass and even the didgeridoo.

The couple's daughter, Katherine, a bassoonist engaged to a%baroque trumpeter, has begun her own classical music festival back in England.

Tyalgum Festival organiser Alexsandra Wilkinson said the festival now had more than 1000%music lovers on its mailing list.

"We're just so lucky to have%Carmel and John living out here," she said.

Ms Wilkinson said tickets were still available for some festival events. Inquiries and bookings: phone (02) 6679 2244.

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