Composer in the Sky

So the sky

So the earth

So the bird

So the earth

The big the small

One thing within the other

Andrew Batt-Rawden, Moorambilla composer in residence, is writing fast and furiously to create his choral and instrumental piece for our senior vocal ensemble MAXed OUT this year.


Moorambilla Composer Andrew Batt-Rowden and         pianist in residence Ben Burton.



Originally an oboist, Andrew is working with a big company – the children, TaikOz percussionists and flute, conductor and Artistic Director Michelle Leonard and Jacob Williams from Queensland Ballet, to create a soundscape of parts that blend as one. It’s all coming together using the artistic elements of this year’s Moorambilla theme – the Emu in the Sky [see Emu in the Sky story].


Andrew discusses the piece with Artistic Director Michelle Leonard.

“The first thing I’d like to say is that we have not created this piece in a way that I am used to!,” laughs Andrew.


“For Earth Sky Bird I created chords and a melody, and then threw it into a cauldron of a various musical elements – taiko drumming, dancing, flute, traditional Japanese elements, singing bowls, as well as piano. There is very immediate and intense process here. It’s site specific and very time sensitive, and there is a lot of momentum behind it.


The text is inspired from the Indigenous legend about Seven Emu Sisters in the Sky which originates from this region. “We were lucky to have Aunty Brenda explain the legend to us and that conversation was really important in helping me understand it,” says Andrew.


Andrew works with soloists Nathan Byron and Billie Palin.


Andrew with TaikOz percussionist Anton Lock.


“The legend has many aspects to it, but the one that I particularly was inspired about was the message that people on earth shouldn’t eat too many emu eggs – it’s a metaphor for the preservation of the environment and it has a spiritual dimension as well, as it discusses the greater universe and our position within that.”

“I commissioned a poet, Chris Mansell, to write the first verse for me that the children could use to bounce off. They then wrote some incredibly deep and phenomenal text – they are awesome kids! They will do anything for the piece, even considering putting beat boxing behind difficult lyrical lines. It’s amazing working with Michelle to put this together.”

Andrew is also working with pianist in residence Ben Burton to bring the piece to life. “Ben picked up on my rhythmic and harmonic language – and he’s been improvising parts around the material I have given him, which is great,” says Andrew.


“I play whatever Andrew comes up with on the day,” laughs Ben. “Last night he wrote something at 3am and then at 9am I was trying to work out what was going on. You are creating on the spot and the end product is something you get to work out over a period – it’s experimentation and it’s great fun.”

“For the concert we will have a small chamber ensemble – piano, soprano saxophone, double bass, violin, taiko percussion, as well as 8 professional vocalists from the Song Company. Whatever I can do on the piano to help the kids get an idea of that, and what it might sound like – I try to do. I also help Andrew and Michelle figure out what’s going to work or not – or whether it makes sense.”

“You don’t normally get an opportunity to write something with the people who are actually going to be performing it,” says Ben. “Here we have 50 kids at out disposal for five days – if you try it out and it doesn’t work you try again – that’s a great thing for a composer.”


MAXed OUT Company sings and writes text with Andrew

IMG_4602 IMG_4381

Singing Bowls_3164

“I wish I had another week!” says Andrew. “But I am really excited to see the piece within the entire context and I can’t wait till September. lucky i get them by themselves before the professional musicians come in  for another day!”



So the sky

So the earth

So the bird

So the earth

The big the small

One thing within the other


Celestial blaze of the star spirit emus

The stars, a moving passage in the night 

Six sister star spirit emus lay eggs in the universe

The link of earth and Byaamai

So far so long the world of celestial silence


One sister star spirit emu lays eggs on earth

She drinks from the rivers and creeks and roams the bush

From one comes many

Take only what you need


Six in the sky the seventh too old lay eggs now joins her sisters

Within the Milky Way

Her children now roam the bush


We walk in spirit

We walk as one

We don’t be greedy

More will come


[Text: a culmination of work by Chris Mansell, Moorambilla MAXed OUT Company, and elder Auntie Brenda and artist Frank Wright]

Text and photography: Lliane Clarke


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