Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Ailan Kores Webcast

Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Church Thursday Island
Great music and new technology merged in a successful presentation of the Ailan Kores webcast from Thursday Island on the first Sunday of the Queensland Music Festival. In Brisbane, I joined a good crowd who comfortably filled the theatre at the Gallery of Modern Art. The technology had its moments, but the warmth and enthusiasm of the  people of the Torres Strait Islands  was evident in the intimacy we had from great camera shots.
The Torres Strait Islands have a rich and colourful history that is shaped by ancient culture and a contemporary history steeped in religious commitment. The London Missionary Society, the Catholic  and Anglican Churches trace their presence in the community back more than a century. There is evidence of smaller communities of the Seventh Day Adventists and, more recently, the Church of Later Day Saints.
This religious heritage has nurtured a singing tradition that continues to be practiced by a new generation of the Youth Choir who opened the performance under the direction of Alison Rogers. The kids were natural and the camera captured moments that only young people can provide as they take centre stage in their community.
The formal welcome to the concert was done in great North Queensland style with guests including the Governor,Penelope Wensly, and QMF Artistic Director Deborah Conway. My latent tribal Catholicism was evident when I went into auto cue and joined Bishop Saibo Mabo who began a prayer with the sign of the cross.
The concert presented popular pieces  including Cygnet Reu’s Green White and Blue, as well as  local hymns in the powerful presentation of Bach’s St John’s Passion. You can hear a sample track of one of the local hymns, Ngapaw Uzar here.
The extraordinary performance of  Damien Barbeler’s The Temptations of Christ has created a new benchmark in Australian religious music. Barbeler has not simply written a new hymn. He has, in fact, given us a new hermeneutic or interpretation of this classic story form the Christian Biblical texts. Gregory Moore presented an alluring and attractive face of Satan, far from the popular stereotype. The use of instrumental music to personify nature in this story was haunting and the voice of Jesus in the choral chants  of Ailan Kores gave a richness to the drama of this incident that is often lost in preaching.
Damien Barbeler also arranged a version of the hymn Jesus Shall Reign, which he discovered when he attended  theComing of the Light celebrations in Erub in 2010.
The final item on the program, Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus, lifted the proverbial roof from Thursday Island to GOMA. In fact, I was pretty impressed that some members of the audience at GOMA stood  and sang with full voice for the whole piece.
A couple of encores stamped the concert as a popular event, and we were sent home with the echoes of a vespers hymn to bless our sleeping.
The concert was a marvelous collaboration, and no doubt involved much travel and work for the guests including theQueensland Youth Orchestra, conductor,  Peter Morris and the soloists, Cygnet Repu, Gregory Moore, Luke captain, Shelli Hulcombe, Brett Holland, and Kathleen Lamont. You can appreciate the effort involved in this project at  Ailan Kores Rehearsals on Far North Queensland and the QMF Diary.
The best comments on Ailan Kores come from the performers and this blog by Silvana captures the magic of the evening in word and images. Thanks Silvana for posting your reflection!
The program notes provided for those of us at GOMA were a useful reference, including translations of the adaptation of Bach’s St John’s Passion and historical notes for the other pieces.
One of the questions that has appeared on the webcast site asks whether the concert will be available as a recording for those who missed it. I suggest we all endorse the call for a recording and perhaps some YouTube clips to celebrate this wonderful musical celebration.
I suggest you keep your eyes on Torres Strait Islanders On-line Television for reports on this concert.
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