Refined singing in an overview of the music of First Nations cultures

Oriana Chorale’s new concert, “Two Worlds”…inspired by the words of Alice Eather, an Australian Aboriginal poet, environmental activist and teacher from Arnhem Land in the NT. Photo: Peter Hislop

Music / “Two Worlds”, The Oriana Chorale, conducted by Dan Walker, flautist Sally Walker. At the Belco Arts Center, August 20. Reviewed by LEN POWER.

THE Oriana Chorale’s new concert, “Two Worlds”, is inspired by the words of Alice Eather, an Australian Aboriginal poet, environmental activist and teacher from Arnhem Land in the NT.

In her poem “Yúya Karrabúra” (The Fire Burns), she refers to her dual heritage of First Nations peoples and Europeans as the two worlds between which she walks, saying, “I live and breathe this story of black and white”.

Choir director Dan Walker created a choral work from Eather’s poem and it was one of the works featured in this unique concert.

Other works were by composers Michael Atherton, Gordon Hamilton (with William Barton), Peter Sculthorpe, Ross Edwards and Stephen Leek.

A new work, “Clock”, by Christopher Sainsbury and Darryl Griffen, a modern response to climate change, was commissioned by the Oriana Chorale and given its world premiere at this concert. It was a beautiful, thoughtful piece of work with dramatic moments contrasting with hints of sadness and thoughtfulness but ultimately optimism.

It was an impressive achievement on the part of Dan Walker and the singers of the choir to present such an extensive program, most of it in the original languages ​​of the works. It was sung with confidence and clarity throughout. The unfamiliar and constantly changing rhythms and parts would have been a challenge to learn and sing.

The result was an evening of fine singing and an educational insight into the amazing range of music found in First Nations cultures. There were lively, lyrical works throbbing with life and joy, melodic works of great beauty, quietly dramatic works of sadness as well as surprising moments of cheeky humor.

Flautist Sally Walker… gave some great solo performances during the “Two Worlds” performance. Photo: Pater Hislop

Flautist Sally Walker gave beautiful solo renditions of “Ulpirra” and “Water Spirit Song”, both by Ross Edwards, and added an extra element of emotion to the works performed by the singers, including the exquisite “Lullaby From Requiem” by Peter Sculthorpe.

Stephen Leek’s ‘Great Southern Spirits’, a fabulous soundscape from ancient Australia was the perfect finale to the program. Its lively section, “Uluru”, which conjured up images of thoughtless tourists on the sacred rock, came full circle in Alice Eather’s call for continued dialogue.

The performance will be repeated at the Drill Hall Gallery, ANU, on August 25.

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Ian Meikle, editor


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