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Moorambilla Voices are in residence in beautiful Baradine and the sun is coming out! The program relies on a regional network of supervisors, helpers, volunteers, parents to set up, rehearse and get ready for the two massive Gala Concerts in Dubbo. Photography: Noni Carroll.
Moorambilla Voices performed two sensational 2016 Gala Concerts of new Australian music inspired by the landscape, heritage and traditional owners of Brewarrina and Mount Grenfell. Dubbo Regional Theatre was home to a powerful celebration of creativity, joy and new Australian music!
Led by Artistic Director Michelle Leonard, the impressive concerts involved nearly 300 children from primary and high schools all across the region. They included several world premieres of pieces commissioned for the children by established Australian composer Andrew Howes and emerging composers Josephine Gibson and William Yaxley.
The Australian World Orchestra and Song Company performed alongside the children to create moments of pure joy and inspiration. The concerts featured powerful and moving dance segments choreographed by Queensland Ballet Education Coordinator Jacob Williams, with regional dance intern Tai Savage performing a captivating solo. The high school group MAxed OUT finished with an awe-inspiring percussion piece written and performed with them by Taikoz artists.
Captured in full by photographer in residence Noni Carroll, the concert also included digital set designs by Noni and regional photographer Burra Mac. At the beginning of the concert, the stunning Elena Kats-Chernin piece Baime’s Ngunnuh, also included The Leichhardt Espresso Chorus. In Moorambilla tradition, the concert finale saw 350 on stage to sing Wide Open Sky dedicated to one of the program’s founders, Liz Markey.
Under the night sky stars, the concerts featured light sculptures of wedge-tailed eagles in the park by Lismore Lantern Parade artists Jyllie Jackson with Sara Tinning and a dramatic fire sculpture by Phil Relf that called back to the wedge-tailed eagles in paper.
Josephine Gibson has written Reverie for Lost Girls for the Moorambilla Voices regional girls choir this year. The evocative, landscape-inspired piece sings of the ancient black rocks and vast unending horizons of the historic Mount Grenfell site.
Reverie for Lost Girls
Lost amidst the willga trees
Dusted, parched and dry
Black rocks dash the rusted soil to vast unending sky
Lost awash in waves of space
Weathered spirits fly
Black roads gash the blood red soil to vast unending sky
“Reverie for Lost Girls is about how I felt in the strangeness of that beautiful area,” says Josephine. “There is a weird and uncanny isolation among those hills that undulate in utter flatness and trees that writhe up out of the ground.”
Now on site at the residential camps at Baradine, Josephine works with Artistic Director Michelle Leonard to rehearse Reverie for Lost Girls, which uses aspects of chant that Josephine says is like “a long unbroken line that communicates text in the most intuitive and beautiful way”.
In her final year of Honours in Composition at Sydney University Conservatorium of Music, Josephine credits her teacher Paul Stanhope with supporting her opportunity to join Moorambilla Voices as composer in residence in 2016. Josephine also sings with the Sydney Chamber Choir as a soprano.
“Chant offers the sense of a voice soaring into space. It’s not just a single line of music in isolation, it’s how that line reverberates, whether that’s within the context of a cathedral or a powerful place like Mount Grenfell! It fits anywhere. You can romanticize it.”
Josephine is adamant that she hasn’t written what you would call “spiritual music”. “I call it writing that is aware of something beyond itself. When you perform it, you also become aware of something beyond yourself.”
Josephine has long admired female composers, particularly Hildegard von Bingen, the pre-medieval German Abbess who wrote uplifting music, invented languages, studied science and wrote theological poetry.
“I’m honoured to be sharing the Moorambilla program with composer Elena Kats-Chernin. I love the world of tonality and writing for traditional instruments. How often do you get to write for musicians of the calibre of the Australian World Orchestra and The Song Company and Taikoz and Ben Burton and Christina Leonard? I really want to do a good job for them.”
“I also hope that this piece communicates in some way the difficulty that girls face growing up. Young girls are often accused of being vague, because they are so rarely given the chance to be complete humans, flawed and marvellous, rambunctious and witty. The world is scary, but you know what, that’s okay. As a young girl you are valuable and beautiful.”
Text: Lliane Clarke
Photography: Noni Carroll.
The national release of the uplifting documentary Wide Open Sky, that explores the musical journey of Artistic Director Michelle Leonard and Moorambilla Voices, has received incredible acclaim across Australia.
“Everyone at Moorambilla Voices is so proud of this positive film,” says Artistic Director and Conductor Michelle Leonard. “We’re particularly excited to have this chance to show the world about our beautiful region, our remarkably talented children and the communities that we are all a part of.”
The critics roared approval of the film and gave it lots of stars! The film was directed by Lisa Nicol and won the audience award for Best Documentary at last year’s Sydney Film Festival. From the Sydney Morning Herald to TimeOut, The Australian, Variety, Margaret Throsby on ABC Classic FM, and arts critic John McDonald in the Australian Financial Review, here’s just a taste of the response:
“Music, as Leonard sees it, is about much more than rhythms and melodies. It’s about sparking critical thought and opening the minds of young people to life’s opportunities and possibilities.” Variety
“These country kids are bright and ambitious. The Moorambilla Voices offers a first glimpse of a world outside their small towns, and a sense of burgeoning possibility.” Australian Financial Review
“The final concert is a triumph. And since we’ve seen how far they have come and what they have learnt, it’s incredibly emotional. The film reminds us of the power that learning about music can have on the personal development of children.” Sydney Morning Herald
“We are in Cobar, Lightning Ridge, Walgett, Dunedoo, Coonamble, Brewarrina…most of them are towns that have had racial problems in the past, but the choir that Michelle is putting together has both indigenous and non-indigenous children, side by side with no problems. Every little bit helps.” ABC Nightlife
We’re looking forward to our exciting 2016 Moorambilla Voices program of residencies and concerts, which again will feature leading Australian composers, musicians, artists working with Moorambilla Voices children and youth in our MAXed OUT Company.
For the full podcast of Margaret Throsby ABC Classic FM interview with Michelle Leonard click here.