Media campaign: Jessie Lloyd’s Mission Songs Project

The Songs Back Home is a collection of Australian Indigenous folk songs performed from 1900-1999 on Christian missions, settlements and native camps where Indigenous people were relocated. As part of her Mission Songs Project, Jessie Lloyd has spent the past two years faithfully exploring the journey of Indigenous Australian music, connecting traditional with contemporary, and charting continuing cultural practice and oral traditions well into the 21st century. The songs, largely hidden from the outside world, comprise rare and almost-forgotten stories, shedding light onto the history and experiences of Indigenous people, their families and communities. Jessie launched The Songs Back Home, the first of the Mission Songs Project collection, in March 2017 at the Brunswick Music Festival and is touring the album throughout the east coast of Australia.

“The 20th Century songs composed and sung on Aboriginal missions and settlements are records of our history and history and tell us about the emotions and aspirations of their composers. Jessie Lloyd’s research to find these songs is a profoundly important contribution to our nation and music.”—Professor Marcia Langton, AM, Mission Songs Project advisor and contributor

“Mission Songs Project presents contemporary folk songs that continue the ancient song lines of this country. The songs speak of the daily lives of the First Peoples who were relocated from their traditional homelands to the missions.”—Archie Roach, AM, Mission Songs Project advisor and contributor

The Songs Back Home CD reviews:

“…a significant release both as a cultural artifact but also for its pure enjoyment factor… full of love and life and hope, sung with great emotion at a level rare in many contemporary albums… As a listener you feel part of the circle and included in the experience. The songs take you through a range of emotions—sadness but also overwhelming joy, compassion, love and many others.”—Steve Britt, Rhythms magazine, May/June 2017

“… a great addition to recordings of genuine Australian folk music… a triumph for Jessie Lloyd.”—Tony Smith, Trad & Now magazine, May 2017

“Islander rhythms, campfire country and defiant humour celebrate simple joys. Melancholy ballads chart a journey of blood, sweat and tears… you’ll almost hear the kettle boil as a closing home recording of the elders invites us to sit down with these unsung survivors.”—4.5 stars, Chris Lambie, Fairfax (The Age, Sydney Morning Herald, Brisbane Times) (read the full review)

“This album defies categorisation in an exciting and innovative way. This contrasting material, with its mix of optimism, happiness, humour alongside sorrow and hardship, characterises the main artist Jessie Lloyd’s wish to promote conciliation through music.”—Ethnomusicologist, Dr Muriel E. Swijghuisen Reigersberg, Loud Mouth (The Music Trust) (read the full review)

“…profoundly moving… the entire collection is sublime.”—4.5 stars, Stephen Fitzpatrick, The Australian (read the full review)

Mission Songs Project, Jessie Lloyd media interviews:

Reviews of the live Mission Songs Project show:

National Folk Festival, April 2017 Rhythms magazine: “Stand-out artists of the Festival included National Folk Fellow Jessie Lloyd for her Mission Songs Project who, with a line-up of top Indigenous artists, presented a rare collection of early Australian Indigenous contemporary songs that were performed on missions and settlements. All Jessie’s shows were packed out.

Port Fairy Folk Festival, March 2017 Chris Lambie, Rhythms magazine: “Daughter of Joe Geia, Jessie Lloyd, travelled the nation to talk with elders for The Mission Songs Project. ‘The Songs Back Home’ is a collection of Indigenous folk songs performed on Christian missions, settlements and native camps from 1900-1999. Not a moment too soon, Lloyd has revived these unique songlines before they’re lost forever. The warm and articulate performer shared the lead on family yarns and glorious harmonies with Emma Donovan, Deline Briscoe and Jessica Hitchcock.”

Blue Mountains Music Festival, March 2017 Elizabeth Walton, Timber & Steel: “The Mission Songs Project brings new life to the voices of the stolen generation and indigenous Australians who were splintered from their cultures when they were made to sing in a foreign language. Today, traditional languages are so far removed from their vernacular that singing in English has become the mainstay, the local languages have become the foreign tongue. Yet everything has its resurgence if you can claim it before it achieves vanishing point. The stories are heartfelt and beautifully sung – perhaps not with the campfire instruments of their natural settings, but the end result is one that adapts well to the contemporary stage and travels to a diverse and broad audience – for The Mission Songs Project, this is mission accomplished, and accomplished incredibly well.”


The Songs Back Home album information
       Mission Songs Project / Jessie Lloyd
CD title:    The Songs Back Home
Synopsis:  10 songs selected from a collection of Australian Indigenous songs from 1900 to 1999, focusing on the Christian missions, state-run settlements and native camps where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were relocated. Curated, arranged and produced by Jessie Lloyd.

Album Credits:
Produced by Jessie Lloyd
Recorded at The Aviary Recording Studio, Melbourne
Engineered, mixed and mastered by Colin Leadbetter
Artwork by Joe Geia and Creative Design by Lyn Geia
Project Patrons and Advisors – Prof Marcia Langton AM and Archie Roach AM

Singers and Musicians:
Jessie Lloyd – vocals/ukulele/acoustic guitar
Monica Weightman – vocals/acoustic guitar
Leah Flanagan – vocals
Karrina Nolan – vocals
Jess Hitchcock – vocals
Iain Grandage – piano/piano accordion
Ed Bates – pedal steel guitar
Rob Mahoney – double bass
Archie Roach – vocals/acoustic guitar (track 11)
Lillian Geia – vocals/ukulele (tracks 10 & 12)
Lynelda Tippo – vocals (tracks 10 & 12)
Alma Geia – vocals (track 13)

Track Order:
1.  Own Native Land  2:53
2.  Outcast Half-Caste  2:35
3.  The Irex  3:32
4.  Down in the Kitchen  2:03
5.  Hopkins River (feat. Monica Weightman)  3:25
6.  Old Cape Barren (feat. Jessica Hitchcock)  3:25
7.  Middle Camp  3:00
8.  Surrare  2:20
9.  Port Fort Hill  2:49
10.   Now Is the Hour Medley (feat. Lou Bennett, Leah Flanagan & Mere-Rose Paul)  4:23

Bonus Tracks:
11.   Hopkins River – Archie Roach  2:14
12.   The Irex – Geia Sisters (Lillian Geia and Lynelda Tippo)  1:11
13.   Down In the Kitchen – Alma Geia  0:38

Dedicated to Alma Dawn Geia (1921 – 2016)

About the Mission Songs Project
Mission Songs Project is an initiative to revive contemporary Australian Indigenous songs from 1900 to 1999, focusing on the Christian missions, state run settlements and native camps where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were relocated.
Searching for the secular songs that were sung after church, Mission Songs Project looks to explore the day to day life of the mission days, from cultural identity to love and loss. These unique songs consist of almost forgotten stories that can now shed light into the history of our Indigenous elders, families and communities.
Mission Songs Project faithfully explores the musical journey of Indigenous Australian music as Jessie Lloyd connects the traditional with contemporary, revealing the continuation of cultural practice and song traditions into the 21st Century.

Mission Songs Project advisors and contributors:
Archie Roach
Marcia Langton
Peena, Cedric, Lillian, Delphine and Joe Geia
Lynelda Tippo
Frank Anderson
Paul Gorden
Jeremy Beckett
Karl Nuenfeldt
Chris Sullivan
Aaron Corn
Clint Bracknell
Elverina Johnson
Will Kepa
Seaman Dan
Cessa Mills
Roger Knox
Kath Mills
Stephen Pigram
Baamba Alberts
Rosie Smith
Jill Shelton
Emma Donovan
Deline Briscoe
John Wayne Parsons
Luana Pitt
Tiriki Onus
Monica Weightman
Robert Champion
William Barton
Marlene Cummins
Warren Roberts
Johnny Nicol
Mindalaya Read
Eugenia Flynn
Leah Flanagan
Karrina Nolan
David Williams
Jessica Hitchcock
Vonda Last
Eddie Peters
Maxine Briggs

Mission Songs Project Sponsors and Supporting Programs:
State Library of Victoria – Creative Fellowship 2016
National Library of Australia – Folk Fellowship 2017
South Australian Museum – Tindale Collection, AA346 Board for Anthropological Research Collection
Archie Roach Foundation
Australia Council for the Arts
Creative Victoria
Australian Performing Rights Association

Jessie Lloyd Bio:
Originally from the tropics of North Queensland, Jessie Lloyd is an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander musician who performs a broad collection of Australian Indigenous songs. A vocalist, guitarist, bassist and ukulele player, Jessie earned her formal qualifications at Abmusic in Perth, WA in 2002.
An award winning composer, performer and creative entrepreneur, Jessie is a cultural practitioner of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander music. Dedicated to the continuation of cultural traditions through the presentation of both contemporary and traditional Indigenous music.
Jessie has travelled Australia in search of hidden songs to present this rare Indigenous narrative. From the Bass Strait to the Torres Strait and across the Arafura Sea, Jessie has spent time with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander senior song men and women, uncovering precious stories and songs from the mission days.

Song synopsis:
1. OWN NATIVE LAND                Composed by Albert ‘Albie’ Edward Geia
This song was ­written by Albie Geia shortly after leading the 1957 strike on Palm Island with six other Indigenous men. The strike was against the discriminatory treatment of Indigenous people, after a petition to the superintendent demanding improved wages, health, housing and working conditions, was ignored. As punishment, Albie and his family were removed to Woorabinda, Qld.

2. OUTCAST HALF-CASTE            Composed by Micko Donovan and Mary Deroux
This song was written by Micko Donovan and Mary Deroux of northern New south Wales about growing up half-caste, a now ­derogatory term, used to describe Indigenous people of mixed heritage. The term was one of many devised in the ­policy to assimilate or ‘breed out’ ­Aborigines, and part of the ­misinformed theories of the ‘survival of the fittest’ that were deployed to result in Aboriginal extinction. Micko was raised on a mission and learned to play music from the local missionaries.

3. THE IREX                                Composer unknown
The Irex was the boat that transported Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who were forcibly removed from the mainland settlements governed by the Native Affairs officers or missionaries to Palm Island Aboriginal Settlement in Queensland. The Palm Island settlement was known as a ‘punishment island’ for those who committed misdemeanours on other government ­settlements or missions. A strike was organized by the Aboriginal ­residents in 1957 to protest the brutal conditions.

4. DOWN IN THE KITCHEN                        Composed by Alma Geia
This song is from the children’s dormitories on Palm Island, Queensland. It was composed by one of the residents, Alma Geia, in the 1920s. This innocent tune gives some insight into the living conditions of children who were removed from their families and placed in the segregated dormitories and how they made light of tough times.

5. HOPKINS RIVER                            Composed by Alice Clarke
A song brought to the project by senior songman Archie Roach.  This song comes from Framlingham mission in southwest Victoria, which was founded near the Hopkins River. It was from here that Archie was forcibly removed from his family which inspired him to write his classic song “Took the Children Away”. Hopkins River was written by Archie’s grandmother’s sister, Alice Clarke.

6. OLD CAPE BARREN                        Composer unknown
The Tasmanian ­Aboriginal community have a long history with Cape Barren Island but the last 200 years has been the most brutal act of ­genocide and ­oppression. The islanders have always maintained a strong ­presence and ­connection to Cape Barren, including cultural practices such as ­mutton birding. This beautiful song paints a picture into the old days, full of love and loss. It is an honour to have our Tasmanian brothers and sisters represented in Mission Songs Project.

7. MIDDLE CAMP                            Composed by Eric Craigie
Middle Camp was an Aboriginal camp set up on the fringes of the township of Moree in New South Wales. It was one of three camps and was closed down at some point by the local shire. 
Composed by Eric Craigie, this song is a protest ballad about displacement from his home when Middle Camp was closed. The lyrics and tune are full of optimism, resilience and determination, and love of the old community of the camp.

8. SURRARE                                Composer Unknown
A song from the Torres Straits, Surrare is a song about hunting a seabird that is sung in Ailan Kriol language. The Western Island language name for seagull is ‘Saora Leh’ and pronunciation has changed over time in various places. The final verse is Cowral Mut, a ‘curry feathered small bird’ and it sings of hunting inland as opposed to hunting coastal. This track incorporates all three versions although excluding the Western Island language words in the 3rd verse. The song was made popular by Joe Geia on his first solo album Yil Lull.

9. PORT FORT HILL                            Composer Unknown
A song from Darwin during the Second Word War, Fort Hill was a location where the Aboriginal and Torres strait Islander men used to scout for enemy ships and spies to keep the town safe. During the post-war years the Australian Half Caste Progress Association held weekly fund-raising dances at The Sunshine Club in a decommissioned Army barracks. This was one of the songs that was performed during those times.

10. NOW IS THE HOUR MEDLEY                    Traditional
This song, also known as the Maori Farewell, is a heartfelt tune adopted by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people on missions in the early 20th century. The Maori wives sang it to their husbands as they left to fight in WWI. It was then shared among the ANZACs including Aboriginal soldiers. The hymn Search Me Oh God was composed by a missionary from New Zealand using the same melody and is well know on many Aboriginal missions. Guest vocals are by Lou Bennett, Leah Flanagan and Mere-Rose Paul.

Media campaign: Unique concert series to explore “The Usefulness of Art”—Adam Simmons

Bubbles, rubber chickens, bursting balloons and toys aren’t usually associated with classical music or jazz concerts. But then again, Adam Simmons is not your usual modern composer and musician.
An award-winning and world-renowned musician, Simmons redefines the term ‘multi-instrumentalist’, stretches the boundaries of modern composition, and infuses a sense of childlike wonder and playfulness into musical art forms better known for their gravitas.
The elements of gentle whimsy woven throughout his music have become as much a trademark as his collaborations with other virtuoso players, his theatrically-inspired performances, and his endearing habit of wearing red socks without shoes on stage.
This year, in his most ambitious musical performance project to date, Simmons brings a series of concerts to fortyfivedownstairs under the umbrella of “The Usefulness of Art”—a notion inspired by a Rodin quote, and the driving force behind his formidable musical career.
The first of the concerts is his Concerto for Piano and Toy Band, to be performed by the Adam Simmons Creative Music Ensemble with l’enfant terrible of modern classical piano, Michael Kieran Harvey. In its Melbourne premiere, the one-hour concerto will be performed from Thursday 2nd to Sunday 5th March, offering music and arts lovers a rare opportunity to experience the power and delight of this extraordinary work.
Through the classical form of the concerto, Concerto for Piano and Toy Band juxtaposes traditional instruments (piano, saxophone, trumpets, trombone, double bass and drums) with toys, in a joyful exploration of connections between the different worlds of solo/ ensemble, classical/jazz, and serious/humorous.
Simmons has a deserved reputation as one of Australia’s most prolific and eclectic musical artists, appearing on festival stages and recordings with some of the world’s finest classical and jazz musicians. Michael Kieran Harvey is an internationally-recognised, classically-trained pianist. Together, these two good friends and self-described iconoclasts are champions of contemporary Australian composition, fierce defenders of the arts, and serious musicians who fuse original jazz, classical and avant garde music in a boisterous, passionate and joyous theatrical experience for audiences.
Concerto for Piano and Toy Band is the first in Simmons’ “The Usefulness of Art” concert series, presenting a creative body of work over five major performance projects throughout 2017—18. From his early VCA student days, Simmons’ music has been inspired by influential French sculptor Auguste Rodin’s quote: “As for me, I call useful anything that gives us happiness.”
Simmons believes that, “At a time when fear governs politics rather than vision and principles, at a time when we cannot offer our hand to those in need, at a time when support for music education is diminishing but studies show that music increases our empathy towards others and that it also has positive effects on the development of neural pathways, how can we not be encouraging more artistic experience and participation? This is the time when art is most useful!”.
“The Usefulness of Art” concerts will be recorded live, for intended release digitally and as a box set of CDs.
#TheUsefulnessofArt, #fortyfivedownstairs

Thank you to all the journalists, presenters and media outlets who are publishing and broadcasting Adam’s story! Here’s a selection…


Music to make you happy: Adam Simmons and the Usefulness of Art on The Sound Barrier!
—Ian Parsons, The Sound Barrier, PBS 106.7FM
“Aside from his phenomenal talent, Adam is driven by three things: his unwavering belief in the vitalness of the arts for who we are as human beings; his indefatigable curiosity for exploring new things; and his passionate commitment to music as a means for bringing people together and building community… what Adam’s music does is gently but powerfully force everyone to think outside their own comfort zones and to find the new spaces that emerge when, as Adam describes it, opposite sides of the same coin are shared.”

It’s more than just child’s play for Adam Simmons
—Joseph Earp, Beat magazine
“Simmons doesn’t see the highbrow and the lowbrow as being at all separate, and he has equal regards for both, finding himself obsessed with both the intellectual and the basic. He is neither a toffy and exclusive classical composer, nor is he some flash-in-the-pan peddler of jokes: his subversive pieces lie somewhere in between those two extremes… for Simmons, art has a uniquely communal power. His pieces, though obscure, are never difficult, and his performances are always guided by the goal of audience unity. They might include a range of novelty items, but his compositions are stridently moving, and never seek to undermine the intelligence of the audience.”

Confucius Say, Give Musicians Liberty
—Roger Mitchell,
“I loved this work. One of the performers, alto saxophonist Cara Taber, described this as ‘beautiful, thought-provoking, and strong original music by Adam Simmons’ and that fits… As is always the case with Simmons’ art, we are encouraged to enjoy as well as to reflect on what we are seeing and hearing, what the performers are bringing to us beyond their facility with a range of instruments.”

All This And Harvey Too
—Clive O’Connell, The Age Classical Reviewer & blogger
“At a time when really adventurous musical events are rare, this night was a breath of fresh air, leaving you elated with its accomplishment.”

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