Ruthless Jabiru at Union Chapel – an “evocative” programme

Originally posted at Chris Garrard:

When we reflect upon damaged landscapes, areas of environmental disaster, our focus often tends towards the political and the social. For example, the visceral nature of BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has been gradually displaced by arguments about compensation, accountability and pension funds in the media. The aesthetic dimension of the Gulf of Mexico spill or the Maralinga stretch of Australian desert, an area long contaminated by nuclear testing, is what shapes our initial emotional response and subsequently, how we reflect upon our relationship to the environment.

Ruthless Jabiru – London’s all-Australian chamber orchestra – are next week performing a concert at Union Chapel as a form of tribute to the latter landscape, Maralinga land in remote South Australia. The ensemble’s conductor, Kelly Lovelady, explains that she has ‘chosen a programme to evoke the loss and the chemical strangeness which has become a part of that landscape.’ Three new works are bookended by Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings and Arvo Pärt’s Cantus in memoriam Benjamin Britten. We could attach…

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High culture; a thriving market

Originally posted at Slingshot Sponsorship:

Sponsorship of the arts and ‘high culture’ is a topic that has been vehemently discussed within the industry for years.  Indeed, the industry is one that has been criticised for its choice of partners; see BP’s sponsorship of the National Portrait Gallery and Shell’s long standing partnership with the Southbank Centre.  Yet, controversy aside, high culture such as the opera, ballet and classical music has a deep rooted association with large corporates.

It seems, however, that the industry is changing.  Over the past few years there has been an influx of new musicians that have begun to open younger generation’s eyes to high culture arts.  Take for example, musicians such as Olafur Arnalds and Nils Frahm, both of whom are classically trained, yet they appear time and time again on some of the UK’s…

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Maralinga: an untold story

Only 8 years after the world recoiled in horror at the devastation of the atomic bombs dropped in Nagasaki and Hiroshima, the British government commenced 12 years of atomic testing in the beautiful desert country of outback South Australia.

For over 12 years 1953-1965 – twice as long as World War Two – 12 large atomic bombs and over 600 so called “minor tests” contaminated the South Australian lands of the Pitjantjatjara, Yankunytjatjara and Spinifex people.

The Australian Prime Minister granted permission for the tests without even consulting cabinet. Tapping in to the deep set fear and disregard for the vast interior of Australia and allowing an ‘out of sight out of mind’ mentality to justify the toxic bombing of Australian citizens, most of Australia didn’t even know it was going on and still don’t.

The stories from Emu Field and Maralinga border on the absurd – leaflets written in English dropped from planes to warn nomadic indigenous people the tests were coming, Australian service men topless in shorts playing cricket on the testing fields while the Brits and American wore protective clothing, a pregnant indigenous woman found camped in a crater who lost her baby…..

What is perhaps most confronting of all is that this history is still largely unknown in Australia. Maralinga has been immortalised by our folk hero musician Paul Kelly, there was a royal commission into the tests in 1984/5, servicemen are still campaigning for compensation and huge tracts of the desert will be uninhabitable for ever more – and yet somehow it is still a hidden part of Australia’s history.

In the early 2000s I became aware of an inspiring campaign led by the Kupa Piti Kungka Tjuta – the Senior Women of Coober Pedy – against a proposed nuclear waste dump in South Australia. These women remembered the bombs from the 1950s and they didn’t want that poison on their country – they initiated the inspiring and victorious Irati Wanti – The Poison, Leave It campaign and prevented that waste dump.

Hearing their stories from Emu Field and Maralinga I was inspired to learn more about the story, and together with Scott Rankin and Trevor Jamieson established the Big hART Ngapartji Ngapartji project.

Ngapartji Ngapartji was based on Arrernte country in Mparntwe (Alice Springs) from early 2005 to mid 2010. Ngapartji Ngapartji had many layers involving language learning, teaching and maintenance, community development, crime prevention, cross cultural collaboration, and creating new literacy training models as well as film, art, policy and theatre making.

The stage production explored Trevor’s family’s experience with the atomic tests – many of them were moved west off their country in cattle trucks before the tests took place. This dislocation – becoming refugees in their own country – and its impact across subsequent generations was told beautifully in this award winning play.

As well as the touring theatre productions the project produced a documentary film for ABC TV in 2010, Nothing Rhymes with Ngapartji, which followed Trevor and the team taking the play back to country in Ernabella community, South Australia. For many people this was the first time they had talked publicly about the bombs – as Anangu culture reveres the deceased with silence – and many of the stories had not been passed down to younger generations. Nothing Rhymes with Ngapartji can be watched in full online.

It remains clear that the stories of Maralinga still need to be shared and acknowledged, and plays, music and storytelling play a critical role in drawing attention to Australia’s atomic history and shameful indifference to the desert and its people.

Ruthless Jabiru and Lara St. John perform Maralinga Lament at the Union Chapel, London at 19:30 on Monday 14 October. Tickets are £16 advance from the Union Chapel online store or £18 at the door.

Kelly Lovelady on Ruthless Jabiru, neo-funk and other grinds

Originally posted at The Sampler:

I haven’t made a mixtape since the 90s but putting this one together for Sound and Music has been the highlight of my weekend.

My chamber orchestra Ruthless Jabiru is performing next Monday 14 October at the Union Chapel. The group is made up entirely of the Australians who play with the major UK orchestras and chamber ensembles. We play mostly music by living composers, including some Australians but not exclusively so, and are planning a robust commissioning stream for the years ahead.

As a conductor, it’s been a great exercise to go back and get some composer context at this point in the project. I’ve come up with a playlist which sets up some of the newer…

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Visualising Maralinga’s legacy

It is the nature of bombs to be indiscriminate. Howard Zinn

We arrived at Maralinga late afternoon on the 9th of November 2011. It was nearly a full moon. The caretaker came and let us in through the gates. We followed his truck along the old Maralinga road, turned left at the junction and into the remnants of the Maralinga village, once host to over 10,000 servicemen over eleven years.

Travelling to Maralinga for the first time after hearing so much about the effects the British nuclear blasts had on Indigenous people and Australian and British personnel, I didn’t really know what to expect. I think I imagined I would find some sort of overwhelming obvious physical evidence of the blasts, but what finally appeared for me was a space full of so much remnant history and memory.

Between 1952 and 1963, the British government tested twelve atomic bombs and hundreds of smaller ‘minor trials’ at Emu Field and Maralinga in South Australia and on Monte Bello Island, off the Coast of Western Australia. The reason for this is that after the end of WWII, Britain, Australia’s ‘mother country’, was losing power and was eager to become part of the global nuclear arms race. Australia of course complied readily, with the then Prime Minister Robert Menzies pushing it through without even consulting the cabinet.

I first started working on mixed media projects around uranium mining and the legacy of the nuclear era in Australia in 2005 as an eager, newly enraged 19 year old. I travelled aboard a bus destined for uranium mines and indigenous lands that had been dispossessed through the process of nuclear developments in the South Australian outback. The group, Friends of the Earth Melbourne, had been organising ‘Radioactive Exposure Tours’ since the 1980s to take people from the cities and towns to see the true impact of the nuclear industry on indigenous communities lives’ and the land in Australia.

We heard from a number of Aboriginal elders who had been fighting long and hard against the ongoing uranium developments and damage that had been done to their land and their communities, and we were given permission to camp out in prohibited zones the semi-arid landscapes where these fights had been going on. Coming back into the city after a trip like this was a wake up call to the physical and mental distance that we had from what was going on ‘out there’ and this revelation took me on a journey to create a few different bodies of photographic, audio and video work over seven years focusing on the impact of this industry on people and the land.

The first project I undertook was called Inhabited; life size portraits and audio stories of indigenous and non-indigenous people resisting the nuclear industry in Australia, as well as survivors and veterans of the Maralinga and Emu Field atomic tests. This project, completed in 2006 has been touring around Australia as an educational tool and exhibition since then.

The next body of work was Operation Buffalo, photographs of Maralinga village and atomic testing sites that was exhibited in Federation Square, Melbourne in 2012. I also made a short film with editor Anthony Kelly called Maralinga Pieces which contains in situ footage from the Maralinga atomic test sites as well as stories of Aboriginal elders who experienced the fallout, alongside those of Australian atomic veterans who helped set up and execute those fateful and deadly tests.

Working on projects around the legacy of these atomic tests in Australia has gotten under my skin; there is still no way that we can truly understand the emotional, physical and psychological scars that have been embedded on indigenous people, the land and nuclear veterans who were never told the truth, who have lost many of their sacred sites and homelands, and who have to fight continuously to protect their land and culture. These projects can only offer glimpses into these stories and histories, and hope to promote greater understanding, awareness and interest in these issues.

Ruthless Jabiru and Lara St. John perform Maralinga Lament at the Union Chapel, London at 19:30 on Monday 14 October. Tickets are £16 advance from the Union Chapel online store or £18 at the door.

Matthew Hindson composer portrait

Matthew Hindson’s Maralinga for violin and string orchestra will receive its European premiere at the centre of our Maralinga Lament programme at the Union Chapel next week with violinist Lara St. John.

Australian composer Matthew Hindson is among the most frequently performed and commissioned composers of our generation. His works have been programmed by ensembles and orchestras throughout Australia and internationally, including the London Philharmonic and Royal Philharmonic Orchestras. He has been the featured composer at both national and international festivals, among them the 2003 Vale of Glamorgan Festival where 14 of his compositions were performed including a full concert of works for string orchestra in the hangar at Cardiff Airport.

Hindson’s music is often influenced by popular styles within a classical music context, with his 1993 orchestral work Homage to Metallica considered one of his first major successes. His music has been used extensively for dance by companies including Birmingham Royal Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, National Ballet of Japan, Ballett Schindowski, Sydney Dance Company and Ballet Boyz at The Roundhouse, London.

In the next week alone Hindson’s music will be performed by Birmingham Royal Ballet at Birmingham Hippodrome and Sadler’s Wells, Ensemble Offspring at Brugge Concertgebouw and the University of Glasgow, Sydney Symphony Orchestra Sinfonia at Eugene Goosens Hall, Attacca Quartet at the Melbourne Festival, Darwin Symphony Orchestra in its landmark performance at Uluru, and by the Southern Cross Soloists at QPAC Concert Hall Brisbane, in addition to Ruthless Jabiru’s performance at the Union Chapel in London.

Matthew Hindson is Chair of the Composition and Music Technology Unit at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. He was the founder of the award-winning Aurora Festival, a festival of contemporary music based in Western Sydney. In 2006 he was made a member of the Order of Australia for his contributions to music composition and music education, and from 2009-2012, was the Chair of the Music Board of the Australia Council for the Arts.

Ruthless Jabiru and Lara St. John perform Maralinga Lament at the Union Chapel, London at 19:30 on Monday 14 October. Tickets are £16 advance from the Union Chapel online store or £18 at the door.

Paul Stanhope composer portrait

Ruthless Jabiru will give the European premiere of Paul Stanhope’s Qinoth for string orchestra at our 14 October performance, Maralinga Lament.

Paul Stanhope (b. 1969) is an award-winning Australian composer with recent performances in the UK, Europe, Japan, and both North and South America. After studies with Andrew Ford, Andrew Schultz and Peter Sculthorpe, Paul was awarded the Charles Mackerras Scholarship which enabled him to study at the Guildhall School of Music in London.

Paul’s international standing was confirmed in 2004 when he was awarded first place in the Toru Takemitsu Composition Prize. He received two APRA/Australian Music Centre Awards in 2011 for Instrumental Work of the Year and Vocal/Choral Piece of the Year, and is the recipient of a Sidney Myer Creative Fellowship for 2013-2014, the first Australian composer to be granted this honour.

In 2010 Paul was Musica Viva’s featured composer. His String Quartet no. 2 received nation-wide performances by the Pavel Haas Quartet as part of the season, as did his Agnus Dei – After the Fire for violin and piano, performed by Alina Ibragimova and Cédric Tiberghien. Paul’s music has been featured at the Vale of Glamorgan Festival by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, and at the City of London Festival, with recent performances by the Melbourne, Adelaide and Tasmanian Symphony Orchestras and the Australian Chamber Orchestra, among many others.

Paul’s forthcoming projects include a choral-orchestral cantata about the life and deeds of Western Australian indigenous hero Jandamarra, written together with librettist Steve Hawke, and a new piece for string quartet.

Ruthless Jabiru and Lara St. John perform Maralinga Lament at the Union Chapel, London at 19:30 on Monday 14 October. Tickets are £16 advance from the Union Chapel online store or £18 at the door.

Ruthless Jabiru welcomes guest artist Lara St. John

On 14 October, Ruthless Jabiru will be joined by violinist Lara St. John for the European premiere of Matthew Hindson’s Maralinga for solo violin and string orchestra. The work will lay at the centre of a programme paying tribute to Maralinga’s dark history.

Canadian-born violinist Lara St. John has been described as “something of a phenomenon” by The Strad and a “high-powered soloist” by The New York Times.

She has performed as soloist with the orchestras of Cleveland, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, the Boston Pops, Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, NDR Symphony, Zurich Chamber Orchestra, Ensemble Orchestral de Paris, Strasbourg Philharmonic, Bournemouth Symphony, Ulster Orchestra, Camerata Ireland, Belgrade Symphony, Amsterdam Symphony, and the Akbank Chamber Orchestra in Turkey, among others.

In Australasia, Lara has performed with the Queensland Orchestra, Adelaide Symphony, ACO², Auckland Philharmonia, Tokyo Symphony, Yomiuri Symphony, Hong Kong Philharmonic, China Philharmonic, and the Shanghai Symphony.

She has traveled to Latin America for appearances with the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela, the Sao Paulo Symphony, Rio de Janeiro’s Orquestra Sinfonica Brasileira, SODRE in Montevideo and the Sociedad Filarmonica de Lima in Peru.

The Los Angeles Times wrote: “Lara St. John happens to be a volcanic violinist with a huge, fabulous tone that pours out of her like molten lava. She has technique to burn and plays at a constant high heat.”

A prolific recording artist, Lara owns and runs her own label, Ancalagon, which she founded in 1999. Her first Ancalagon recording, Bach: the Six Sonatas & Partitas for Violin Solo was the best-selling double album on iTunes in 2007. Her 2008 world premiere recording of Matthew Hindson’s Violin Concerto prompted Gramophone to write: “It’s the sort of work that should get audiences running, not walking, back to concert halls on new-music nights”.

Ruthless Jabiru and Lara St. John perform Maralinga Lament at the Union Chapel, London at 19:30 on Monday 14 October. Tickets are £16 advance from the Union Chapel online store or £18 at the door