Monday 29 May 2017 at 11am, Wallaroo Community House, 6 Wallaroo Place Hastings West
As part of 2017 National Reconciliation Week, Indigenous musician Jessie Lloyd gathered with local people from the Mornington Peninsula area to share true-to-life stories and heartfelt songs. These stories and songs are from her Mission Songs Project. The Project has taken Jessie to different parts of Australia to meet Indigenous Australians who were affected by Christian missions, state-run camps and relocation. As part of the Project, Jessie collects songs that Indigenous Australians have written and sung depicting their mission experiences. Through sharing songs from the Mission Songs Project and encouraging others to do the same, Jessie aims to preserve and pass on this precious cultural practise and in doing so, shed light on the history of Indigenous families, elders and communities.
Jessie’s warmth of spirit and openness with which she shared the knowledge and stories of her family delighted each of the 40-odd people who attended this unique and inspiring event. Jessie’s impact was immediate, as many people went away humming a tune before enjoying the delicious lunch provided. Adding to the atmosphere of warmth and sharing was the enthusiastic address and attendance by the Good Shepherd staff who organised the event, and the friendliness and hospitality of the volunteers at Wallaroo Community House who hosted the event.
Jessie Lloyd’s visit was inspiring for our local community, bringing people together in the spirit of reconciliation. What is more, recognising the historical experiences of Indigenous people through music fosters the healing that will unite the people of Australia towards a better, fairer future.
For more information on 2017 National Reconciliation Week and events near you visit reconciliation.org.au/nrw
Visit the Balnarring Hall on Friday 2 June at 7:30pm for a free film event hosted by Willum Warrain Aboriginal Association. Prison Songs, a groundbreaking documentary that gives voice to Indigenous Australians behind bars – through song.
The Autumn trees are turning beautiful shades of gold and red and the air is beginning to get cold and crisp. The end of daylight saving means that the long, warm evenings of Summer are over. It gets dark at 6pm now, and earlier each night until solstice. As the quality of the light becomes softer, the last of the clear sunny days of Autumn become precious and treasured with the approaching darkness and cold of Winter. Easter has just passed, giving a reminder that death and rebirth is a theme that must be confronted in human lives. These feelings draw the mind inward and the senses outward. The only thing to do, it seems, is to seek quiet joy in the final days of sunshine by being out in the garden or walking outside. These pursuits allow the mind to rest, take stock and be inspired by God’s creations through slowing down and noticing the details of the garden. Birth, death and rebirth can be seen all around – it seems that nature can help the mind process the dramatic themes of Easter as well.
Nature is as intrinsic to art as it is for humans to breathe air. Even a contemporary sculpture may give the impression of a crystalline form, water, a seed or a living thing, or be crafted from the earth’s wood, rock or metal. Infinite numbers of artworks have taken their forms, sounds, colours and rhythms from nature. Famous examples include French painter, Claude Monet (1883 – 1926), and composer, Ludwig Van Beethoven (1770 – 1827).
Monet’s garden in Giverny provided peace, inspiration and immersion amongst natural colour and light that made his impressionist paintings such masterpieces. Beethoven is reputed to have spent a great deal of time walking in the country areas outside of Vienna. The first movement of his Pastorale Symphony, which premiered in 1808, is notated with text that translates as ‘awakening of cheerful feelings on arrival in the countryside’, which gives an indication of his love for nature. Closer to home, William Ricketts’ (1898 – 1993) appreciation of the Australian bush and the connection that Aboriginal people have with the land, inspired the creation of a large number of ceramic sculptures depicting Australian aboriginal people, animals and plants. Many of his sculptures are now in a bushland setting in Mt Dandenong, called William Rickett’s Sanctuary, which is open to the public.
In more recent times, Australian Broadcasting Commission’s Radio National began the Trees I’ve loved project in 2013, inviting audiences to contribute their stories about their relationships with trees. The ABC received hundreds of heartfelt responses. Forty are available online to enjoy. These stories were edited by Gretchen Miller and compiled into a book entitled In their branches.
Following that, ABC Classics
label released a delightful CD in 2015 with the same title, featuring 18 pieces about trees. Among the Australian-composed pieces are Jane Rutter’s Kodama tree spirit, Percy Grainger’s My robin is to the greenwood gone, David Jones’ Forest walk, Richard Mills’ The nocturnal power of trees and Peter Sculthorpe’s The rain-forest.
This example from only a few years ago shows how the human experiences of nature are still forming a strong basis for the art of story, literature and music. What about contemporary sculpture and visual art?
McClelland Gallery and Sculpture Park is a feast for the artistic senses. The bushland setting of the many large and unexpected sculptures, draws the visitor into un-earthly realms that stir the imagination. The indoor café and gallery provide an intriguing nook for exciting Australian visual art. Dame Elisabeth Murdoch was a significant contributor to the establishment since its beginning in 1971. Dame Elisabeth understood that there is a link between gardens and art, and that people need these two things to nourish their souls.
Dame Elisabeth was also the founder of the Royal Cranbourne Botanic Gardens as well as creating her own garden at Cruden Farm in Langwarrin. A variety of rose has even been cultivated with her name and is widely available at rose nurseries. Additionally, the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute commissions an Australian artist each year to create floral images for gift cards to promote the Elisabeth Murdoch Mother’s Day Appeal.
Dame Elisabeth spent her life patronising establishments to make art and beautiful gardens accessible to all. At McClelland Gallery and Sculpture Park and Cranbourne Botanic Gardens, anyone can enjoy world-class art in a natural Australian garden.
Dame Elisabeth Murdoch holding a bloom of her own rose cultivar
As Autumn and Winter take hold in the coming months, future articles will be posted here on the art that can be enjoyed at McClelland Gallery and Sculpture Park and Royal Cranbourne Botanic Gardens. Visiting gardens in the cooler seasons, rugged up with woollies, releases the confines of the indoors and flushes away the Winter blues with fresh air, visual delights and artistic inspiration.
Glittering in a silver A-line dress, a large spiky, silver fascinator on her head and sporting a baritone saxophone, musical director Ania Reynolds stood in front of the red velvet curtains. The show began with a few deliberate, wild honks of her instrument. The curtain was raised to reveal other musicians playing unusual-looking instruments. A musical game ensued, setting the theatrical tone for the show.
The drum kit player and keyboard player were positioned at the rear and centre of the stage and anchored the musical narrative throughout. At some point during the show, nearly all of the performers played various instruments. This not only added to the richness of the soundscapes, but demonstrated that the performers are capable of an impressive diversity of skills in addition to a great variety of circus acts. For example, I observed performer Matt Wilson, at various points throughout the show, play the guitar, juggle silver batons amongst a group, play percussion, balance on one leg atop chairs stacked seven-high, and perform tricks on vertical poles.
Of course, the show was not about what one person can do in isolation. Circus Oz created magic and intrigue by seamlessly bringing together performing artists and art forms to complement each other. For each circus act, a unique atmospheric mood was cleverly created with live music. I was impressed and delighted by the wide range of musical genres and atmospheres married with each act. Fun Latin rhythms met dancing and tumble turns through hoops stacked three-high; funk grooves set the tone for a clever display of baton juggling amongst a group of seven people; a hard rock beat backed a ‘fire fighter’ climbing a ‘hose’ rope suspended from the ceiling, performing death-defying tumbles and falls; sparse jazz, eerie toy piano or slow ethereal keyboard effects were used for more still acts such as slow acrobatics focussing on strength and grace.
In true Circus Oz fashion, the performance content was subtly interwoven with themes relevant to Australian culture now. Hosting the show was a character wearing a jacket sequined with colours forming an Indigenous flag. References to gay culture, transgender and the ‘new age’ spiritual movement were dropped here and there. A character by the name of ‘Infinity Love Beads’, whose narrative throughout the show was to perform a convincing ‘levitation’, used clever plays on words for tongue-in-cheek digs at the ‘new age’ movement and the current generation. Mixing up words such as ‘terrorist’ with ‘tarot-ist’ and ‘entitlement’ with ‘enlightenment’ provided some laughs for the adults in the theatre. There were many opportunities for all-ages comedy too, with the use of good-old slapstick humour.
Having only seen Circus Oz perform under the big top prior to this show, I was interested to see how they adapted their performance for a much smaller theatre space. A large four-pronged, reinforced frame was arced high over the stage and this was used to suspend ropes, cables and trapeze. Though not immediately obvious to the audience, there was a strong person climbing up and down the structure like a concealed Spiderman, responsible for changing the various apparatus needed for each act, and using his body-weight to adjust the length of the cable suspended from the frame.
Though the show was packed full of quirk, amazement, live music and humour for all, I must admit that my favourite part of the show was more subdued, atmospheric and dance-like. After the interval, an intriguing percussion contraption was left in front of the curtain. On it, hung two drums, various bells, triangles, woodblocks and gongs. This contraption was played by three people to produce an eerie, ambient aura with string sounds, scrapes, ‘tocks’, gentle bells and cymbals. The sounds were used to respond sensitively to the graceful movements of a young man who was slowly twisting, turning, arcing and flexing his body on the floor to roll and cradle juggling balls around his body with ultimate control. It was a mesmerising display of sophisticated ensemble and movement, demonstrating the breadth of skill and artistic mastery that Circus Oz is capable of. For those seeking laughs and awe-inspiring spectacle, to those who enjoy fine artistry, Circus Oz 2016 is truly a show for everyone.