Melbourne Symphony Orchestra: MSO + Spinifex Gum

With Spinifex Gum the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Marliya Choir and related artists celebrated NAIDOC Week by placing its 2022 theme: Get Up! Stand Up! Present Up! into beautiful motion. On the finish of the efficiency, the viewers too bought up as one and stood as much as give all involved a rapturous reception, greater than grateful that they’d proven as much as witness such an uplifting and emotionally participating telling of necessary tales.

Even those that had attended, or watched on YouTube, “Introducing Spinnifex Gum” on the Iwaki Auditorium earlier within the week as a part of the Music & Concepts collection couldn’t have anticipated the brilliance of the ultimate product. Offered by Yolngu lady Leila Gurruwiwi, the introductory occasion featured performances and dialog from the solid and creatives of Spinifex Gum. These comprised composer Felix Riebl, cultural and neighborhood chief Michael Woodley, choral director Lyn Williams, choreographer Deborah Brown and ten members of the astonishing Marliya Choir – Marliya which means bush honey. Riebl defined {that a} driving consider his work is the creation of magnificence, however one that’s an antidote to the Qantas commercial that options Gondwana Voices. He needed to “invert the cliché of the Qantas choir”. There’s a lot that’s confronting and deeply disturbing in his assortment of songs depicting the injustice and trauma suffered by our Indigenous nations, however Spinifex Gum is structured in a means that’s in the end optimistic and energising.

Aside from the insights into the inventive course of, we additionally learnt that the attractive portray representing Pilbara nation the place three teams meet, and positioned on the ground within the foreground for the speak, additionally served as an entry level for performances. As performers cross over the material they enter a brand new house, grounded and calmed by a way of connection to nation. The viewers might not have seen this transition course of, however we did see 15 assured members of Marliya enter the stage to present us nicely over an hour of continuous, polished dynamism.

Marliya was fashioned from members of the Gondwana Indigenous Kids’s Choir, based mostly in Cairns, to carry out Spinifex Gum and has subsequently toured round Australia, acting at main festivals to nice acclaim. This expertise confirmed within the professionalism of their presentation. Because the younger women entered the stage and took up a central place in from of the orchestra, roughly 50 members of Gondwana Voices filed into the seats above either side of the stage. All had been initially wearing a uniform of black tracksuits sporting the Spinifex Gum brand, however Marliya members later eliminated their tracksuit tops to disclose earth-coloured T-shirts. Consistent with the general affect of visible signifiers, every held particular person microphones linked to cords in Aboriginal flag colors, and these turned a part of rigorously devised choreography – motion that infrequently stopped however was by no means intrusive – and culminated in forming manacles and hanging ropes for Locked Up, a strong protest towards deaths in custody.

Visible content material was very a lot an integral a part of the story telling, with footage of railway traces and infinite vehicles of iron ore being transported throughout huge distances discovering their counterpart within the music. Discipline recordings of the Pilbara iron ore practice had been usually coupled with orchestral percussion. Recordings of a basketball thudding on a backboard coupled with a bass drum, shuffling footwear, the hum of cicadas, percussive and artificial sounds – all had been added to the combination. Usually the drone of decrease strings emerged from orchestral silence till full orchestra crescendos upped the strain.

Simply as there was a layering of voice and motion in a always altering and interweaving of components, the lighting modified to mirror the various content material. From spotlights to atmospheric colored floods and quite a lot of whirling patterns projected onto the ceiling, every little thing was thoughtfully designed and easily executed.

Of the 20 gadgets, it’s troublesome to pick out just some for particular person remark, as all had been so worthy of particular consideration, however listed here are some: Soul singer Emma Donovan’s excellent interpretation of My Island House surrounded by a younger backing choir clearly impressed by her artistry and dedication; Lang Interlude, the place we heard the surprising recorded credo of grazier-turned-prospector Lang Hancock from 1971: “the greed of capitalism is the one driving power there may be”, whereas the singers turned their backs to the viewers in protest as a drum beats towards a string drone and “Ah”, “Nation” was repeated; the riveting Ms Dhu, a horrifying story of an notorious latest dying in custody that has provoked normal outrage, started with the stark ringing of a phone adopted by the voice of her grandmother, Carol Roe, talking about her life; and the decision to motion of Voice Treaty Reality Now wherein the viewers was invited to hitch in singing the phrases projected onto the display screen – not an enormous success contemplating all these masks, however compensated for by the enthusiastic, extended applause that adopted.

Though there was no holding again on the outrageous remedy of our Indigenous peoples, works equivalent to Sisters, Marliya and The Kids Got here Again demonstrated pleasure within the energy of Aboriginal tradition, icons equivalent to Archie Roach, and the worth of non-public connections and mutual assist.

Whether or not by way of the tuneful sweetness of Marliya or the insistent hip-hop story-telling of Locked Up, Spinifex Gum achieved Felix Riebl’s goal of composing “lovely music for lovely voices”. The mixture of placing photographs, kaleidoscopic lighting, the bringing collectively of so many disparate musical components right into a coherent entire underneath the baton of Benjamin Northey, and, above all, the outstanding Marliya Choir made this efficiency of Spinifex Gum an expertise that may proceed to resonate in our lives.

Picture credit score: Mark Gambino


Heather Leviston reviewed “Spinifex Gum”, offered by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra at Arts Centre Melbourne, Hamer Corridor on June 9, 2022.