Media campaign: National Folk Festival, Canberra 2018

Offering ‘five days in a perfect world’, Canberra’s award-winning National Folk Festival is one of the country’s longest-running, family-friendly and widely loved music festivals. The five-day celebration of music, song, dance, circus, spoken word and film features more than 200 international and national acts. Hundreds of volunteers transform Exhibition Park (EPIC) into a fantastical village, complete with roving entertainers, street circus, stages of all sizes, market stalls, food vans, shopping precincts, cafes, themed bars and arts and craft activities.
The 52nd National Folk Festival runs throughout Easter, 29 March—2 April 2018 at Exhibition Park, corner Flemington Road and Northbourne Avenue, Mitchell, ACT. Tickets on sale now: discounted Early Bird Tickets available.
t: (02) 6262 4792 e:
#ournff #5daysinaperfectworld


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The National Folk Festival celebrates the diversity of folk with a major announcement of artists for 2018.
Audiences will be treated to some of the very best exponents of their craft from Australia and the world when the 52nd edition of this iconic event hits the Nation’s capital next Easter. Headlining a stellar list of acts is Scottish super group Breabach, Nashville darling Lindsay Lou, the ‘unhinged genius’ of Steve Poltz, Celtic songstresses Cara, wildly entertaining and brilliantly named Ten Strings and A Goat Skin, and Indigenous performer Gina Williams, who returns to the Festival with her full band.
Today’s announcement also features a mix established and much-loved artists alongside new and emerging performers of uncommon talent and virtuosity who have yet to become household names. The National presents a superb opportunity for audiences to hear these acts on stages from the intimate through to the capacious, all within a lively village environment.
With music and entertainment to capture every age and taste, from young indie duo Amistat (twin brothers Jan and Josef Prasil) to the ‘rebellious beauty’ of Bush Gothic or The Western Flyers’ with their electrifying Texas swing, there will be plenty on the table to whet the appetite for good music.
The National is renowned for presenting the very best of folk. Old-timey and trad acts rub shoulders with the contemporary and new. Audiences will relish the gritty hill-style gospel blues duo Hat Fitz and Cara, virtuoso folk-blues guitarist Daniel Champagne, sublime UK duo Chris While and Julie Matthews, Canadian trio The Good Lovelies and glam-folk sirens-of-satire Sparrow-Folk. Add the lyrical bluegrass songs of the John Flanagan Trio, glorious tunes and vocals from Marcia Howard, diplomat-turned-musician Fred Smith and the sensual, theatrical performances of Chaika, and you’ll be spoilt for choice.
The list goes on: old time fiddle and banjo duo Cat and Clint; Charm of Finches (teen sisters Mabel and Ivy Windred-Wornes); The Chordwainers playing instruments crafted by world-renowned leather sculptor, Garry Greenwood, and the ‘infectiously fun’ Coconut Kids with French-influenced world folk using ukulele, brass, bass, keys, violin, mandolin and percussion.
In a treat for dancers, Australia’s leading Scottish Country Dance musicians, Chris Duncan with Catherine and Jennifer Strutt, will blow the party shoes off everyone on the dance floor! Ace fiddle player Gordie ‘Crazy Legs’ MacKeeman and His Rhythm Boys will thrill with their exuberance and unstoppable roots music force, while Gippsland-born troubadour Harry Hookey, performing with Lucky Oceans and David Hyams, will wow audiences with their rousing sing-along stomp.
Families and children will delight in Australia’s favourite family puppet show, the Amazing Drumming Monkeys, blending puppetry, live music and comedy while lovers of circus will be enchanted by the glitter and laughter of Madhouse Circus and the nautical nonsense and sea shanty shenanigans of Pirateman Michael.


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The 52nd National Folk Festival has announced its first round of artists for 2018, with six outstanding headline acts from the UK and Australia.
From England, Faustus and Belshazzar’s Feast will head to our shores to perform exclusively for Festival goers. Also on the bill is returning Festival favourite, Katey Brooks (UK) as well as homegrown heroes Mick Thomas and The Roving Commission (VIC), 19-Twenty (NSW) and Frumious (TAS).
From ‘bloke folk’ and ‘punk blues’ to gypsy jazz fusion and the indefinable and yet unmistakable sound of grassroots and suburban Australia, these diverse acts represent the very best in folk music today. They’re at the top of their game as virtuoso musicians, songwriters and entertainers, and each will bring their unique sound to Exhibition Park, Canberra throughout Easter (29 March—2 April 2018).
Heading the list is Faustus (UK), a ‘bloke folk’ triumvirate of prodigiously talented multi-instrumentalists; Paul Sartin, Benji Kirkpatrick and Saul Rose. This trio evolved from award-winning band Dr Faustus, and all three members have performed in other leading acts including the Seth Lakeman Band, Bellowhead, Waterson:Carthy and Whapweazel. Their three albums and dynamic shows have earned them widespread acclaim as the leading lights of their generation, with The Guardian describing them as “one of Britain’s outstanding folk bands” and The Independent on Sunday declaring their mission to be “to rescue contemporary folk from the curse of feyness…”.
Belshazzar’s Feast (Paul Hutchinson and Paul Sartin, UK) play breathtakingly beautiful and wickedly inventive tunes on oboe, accordion and violin, many of which incorporate slapstick comedy with outstanding musicianship.
Guitarist-singer-songwriter Katey Brooks (UK) has a haunting intensity and a “voice to melt glaciers” (Venue Mag). After blowing away three full houses at the 2017 Festival, Katey is packing her guitar and returning to Australia with her new album, We The People.
Another returning Festival favourite is the ‘raucous and manic’ trio from the NSW east coast, 19-Twenty. Featuring Kane Dennelly (vocals and guitars), Syd Green (percussion, drums, dobro) and John Gwilliam on double bass and vocals, 19-Twenty believe in “asking for forgiveness not for permission” and, accordingly, their music is the closest to punk the blues will ever get.
Each year the Festival draws on the best folk acts from two feature states, in a nod to its history as a travelling festival. For 24 years the Festival was held in different Australian cities and towns before putting down roots at its permanent home at Exhibition Park, Canberra. Tasmania and Victoria are the featured states for the 52nd National Folk Festival.The first acts announced for the featured states are Frumious, a high-energy quintet from Hobart. Borrowing from many styles and cultures, their music is an infectiously upbeat fusion of folk and gypsy jazz with a fresh, contemporary and original sound.
Mick Thomas & The Roving Commission (VIC) features raconteur, troubadour, balladeer and poet, Mick Thomas, along with Squeezebox Wally on piano accordion and a rotating lineup of talented performers to keep the party alive with Mick’s unique mix of folk, roots and country.

Adam Simmons

Adam Simmons & Arcko ensemble: Melbourne premiere of Travelling Tales

Hotter-than-hot musical wunderkind Adam Simmons brings the Melbourne premiere of his musical suite Travelling Tales to fortyfivedownstairs from December 7—10.
Simmons will perform this rapturous avant garde-jazz-classical suite with the 20-piece world-class Arcko Ensemble, conducted by Timothy Phillips.
Simmons composed and first performed Travelling Tales for the 2013 Piraeus Festival in Athens, Greece, with the Intrarti Orchestra. The work comprises musical vignettes inspired by his worldwide travels, love of Japanese shakuhachi music, and profound belief in the usefulness of art.
It will be the third in his acclaimed The Usefulness of Art concert series. Comprising five concerts over two years, The Usefulness of Art series is inspired by a Rodin quote, and is the driving force behind Simmons’ formidable musical career.
The first two concerts have elicited rapturous praise from critics and audiences alike. The Age Classical Reviewer, Clive O’Connell, wrote, “At a time when really adventurous musical events are rare, this night was a breath of fresh air, leaving you elated with its accomplishment.”
Des Cowley, Australian Book Review, described the second concert as, “… a triumph in every way,” and the Daily Review’s Shane Murphy said, “If the usefulness of art is to make one happy, then Simmons went a long way to doing so.”
A virtuoso player of saxophones, clarinets, flute and shakuhachi (Japanese flute), Simmons stretches the boundaries of modern composition and infuses a sense of wonder and playfulness into musical art forms better known for their gravitas.
His performances are not so much ‘concerts’ as staged auditory spectacles—drawing audiences in to share in the uniquely communal power and euphoria of his music and art.
Revered by his peers, lauded by critics and adored by audiences, up to now he’s been somewhat of an unsung hero on the Melbourne music scene. This is all about to change; as well as co-directing a killer line-up at the latest Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues, he’s just got a gig as artist-in-residence for FOMA MONA 2018 and won a spot in the Australia Council’s prestigious Arts Leaders Program.
For Travelling Tales, Simmons chose to work with Timothy Phillips and the Arcko Ensemble not just because of their virtuoso playing but also their focus on Australian works and composers. With a 20-piece string orchestra and conductor, Simmons will be playing tenor and soprano saxophones as well as bass clarinet. Continuing the theatrically-inspired theme for his concerts, the musicians will be wearing costumes designed by Christine Crawford.

An award-winning and world-renowned musician, Adam 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. He 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, and is renowned for his inclusive, collaborative and uplifting performances.

Travelling Tales (by Adam Simmons)
Featuring: Adam Simmons with Arcko Ensemble (directed by Timothy Phillips)
Dates: Thursday 7th to Sunday 10th December 2017, 7.30pm each night except Sunday matinee at 3pm. Concert duration: 60 minutes.
Venue: fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne 3000
Ticket prices: $35 full / $30 concession
Ticketing URL:
Phone bookings: 03 9662 9966

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Concert #2: Meditation on The Usefulness of Art is music for our times (The Usefulness of Art)
Concert #1: Unique concert series to explore The Usefulness of Art (Concerto for Piano & Toy Band)


Media campaign: Meditation on “The Usefulness of Art” is music for our times

Acclaimed Melbourne jazz composer and musician Adam Simmons returns to fortyfivedownstairs for four nights in August, with a rare opportunity to experience his The Usefulness of Art suite performed by a world-class 20-piece ensemble.
The concerts will be the first time The Usefulness of Art has been performed by the Adam Simmons Creative Music Ensemble alongside an art installation by Filipino sculptor Diokno Pasilan and featuring costumes by Christine Crawshaw.
While The Usefulness of Art suite—with its sublime meditations on the qualities of acceptance, empathy, generosity, compassion and faith—is already known to fans of Simmons’ avant-garde trio, Origami, it has only once before been performed live by a larger ensemble, during its creative development process.
Expanding the work for the much larger ensemble builds on its contemplative nature and elevates it to an immersive and ecstatic listening experience through the musicians’ connection with audiences—something that drives Simmons’ approach to performance. Earlier this year Joseph Earp of Beat magazine wrote that “… 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.”
This will be the second of Simmons’ planned five-concert series throughout 2017-18 under the umbrella of The Usefulness of Art, a concept inspired by Auguste Rodin’s quote—“I call useful all that gives us happiness… art shows man his raison d’être.”
Says Simmons, “I strongly believe art is what helps us connect. In these times, 100 years or so since Rodin made similar observations, I believe this is what we need more of, and these performances are a result of coming to share Rodin’s perspective.”
He composed The Usefulness of Art in 2012, at a time when arts funding in Australia was being savaged across the board—in schools, TAFEs, universities and the public and private sectors—and public debate was characterised by a lack of empathy. His musical meditations on the unquantifiable qualities that art evokes make for powerful listening, and an experience that is more compelling and relevant than ever to audiences.
Musicians for this concert include Simmons on bass clarinet and leading the ensemble; on saxophones, Samuel Boon, Cara Taber, Gideon Brazil and Paul Simmons; trumpets, Gemma Horbury and Gavin Cornish; and trombones James Wilkinson and Bryn Hills. The redoubtable Howard Cairns—also a member of Origami—will play double bass, alongside Miranda Hill. On drums will be Niko Schauble and Hugh Harvey, and percussion Nat Grant, Carmen Chan, Leah Scholes and Diokno Pasilan. David Brown will play guitar, and Pete Lawler (Weddings, Parties, Anything), space drums.
The first in The Usefulness of Art series, in March 2017, was Simmons’ remarkable Concerto for Piano and Toy Band featuring Michael Kieran Harvey. These concerts elicited rapturous praise from critics and audiences alike, including from The Age Classical Reviewer, Clive O’Connell, who wrote, “At a time when really adventurous musical events are rare, this night was a breath of fresh air, leaving you elated with its accomplishment.”
Ian Parsons, The Sound Barrier, PBS 106.7FM, wrote: “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.”
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. He 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, and is renowned for his inclusive and collaborative performances.
He was recently named as a co-artistic director for the 2017 Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues, and has just returned from major jazz festivals in Germany and the Netherlands, where he helped facilitate exciting new performance and networking opportunities for Australian musicians.
The Usefulness of Art concerts across 2017-18 will be recorded live, for release digitally and as a box set of CDs.
This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body. This project is supported by the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria.

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A Window On Our Raison D’Etre
—Roger Mitchell,
“With any offering inspired by Adam Simmons there is going to be more than merely music… this concert invited the audience to become deeply immersed in the work of creativity and, ultimately, to join in a shared experience.
“That unity and sense of community is what has lingered in my mind so long after this second concert in a series of five that will stretch into 2018. The sense of fun and joy was still evident among the ensemble members, although the set and costumes conveyed a darker mood. As collective voices joined Pete Lawler’s distinctive and arresting solo vocals at the culmination of this concert, drawing the audience into their harmonic spell, I felt that we were indeed united and there was much power and benefit in that.”

The Usefulness of Art (fortyfivedownstairs)
—Des Cowley, Australian Book Review—4.5 stars
“This performance was a triumph in every way. While the approach drew upon the pioneering work of Anthony Braxton’s Creative Music Orchestra, the resulting music – with titles such as ‘Empathy’, Compassion’, ‘Faith’ – evoked the spiritual music of John Coltrane, in particular his masterpiece A Love Supreme (1964). Like Coltrane’s work, this was music at the service of the human spirit. Adam Simmons has stated that the genesis of the suite derived, in part, from his reading of Auguste Rodin’s views on the usefulness of artists. At a time when funding support for art and artists is diminishing, The Usefulness of Art attempts to put forth an alternative scenario. If the composition asks the question of whether art plays a critical role in our culture, our personal lives, these musicians and this performance responded with a resounding affirmation.”

The Usefulness of Art
—Shane Murphy, Daily Review
“The beauty of Adam Simmons’ work is that it respects this (… that this sort of jazz is conscious art and deserves active listening)… (it) aims to draw its listeners in and rewards you for that participation. Simmons’ circular breathing and overblowing in the introduction was especially inspiring. Sounding like a cross between clarinet and didgeridoo, it set the tone for what was to come…a solid hour of music played with verve and passion, capped with a singalong to close. If the usefulness of art is to make one happy, then Simmons went a long way to doing so…”

Adam Simmons: The Usefulness of Art
—David Collins, Australian Arts Review
The Usefulness of Art starts with a whisper from Adam’s bass clarinet… indeed, this whisper sparks, surging into something monstrous and beautiful. The musicians took it in turns to lead through this lovely piece of auditory spectacle.”


Adam Simmons—100 word bio

Adam Simmons redefines the term ‘multi-instrumentalist’, stretching the boundaries of modern composition and infusing a sense of childlike wonder and playfulness into musical art forms better known for their gravitas.
An award-winning and world-renowned musician, he has a 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.
He was recently named co-artistic director for the 2017 Wangaratta Jazz and Blues Festival and participated in major European jazz festivals, where he helped facilitate new performance opportunities for Australian musicians.

Media campaign: Hundreds of voices to raise in song for Boîte Millennium Chorus

Goanna band’s 1980s hit song Solid Rock performed in Pitjantjatjara by a 250-voice choir will be one of the many spine-tingling highlights of a most extraordinary and moving concert on Sunday 20th August at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre.
The Boîte Millennium Chorus will perform its 20th concert, ‘Haven’, bringing songs from the Seychelles, Africa, East Timor, Chile, the Caribbean and Indigenous Australia to thousands of Melburnians.
This year, the songs selected for the concert include works composed and sung in English, Mandinka, Tsonga, Seychellois, Spanish, Tetum and Indigenous Australian (Yolngu and Pitjantjatjara) languages.
Each song relates to the theme of ‘Haven’ through stories of seeking refuge and freedom, finding a home, falling in love, feeling safe, embracing change and nurturing hope.
In a massive undertaking, the hundreds of singers from Mallacoota in far east Victoria to Ballarat and Geelong in the west, from Albury-Wodonga in the north, Castlemaine, and the Mornington Peninsula and Melbourne in the south, gather for weekly rehearsals in their region for the three months leading up to the concert.
This concert celebrates the work of seven outstanding directors—Andrea Khoza, Jane Thompson, James Rigby, Stella Savy, Carl Pannuzzo, Penny Larkins and Geoffrey Williams—brought together under the guidance of Boîte director Roger King. The concert will also feature notable soloists and musicians from diverse backgrounds: Mitch Tambo, Jess Hitchcock, Sally Ford, Lamine Sonko, Darrel Belle, and Valanga Khoza.
Master storyteller, writer, human rights activist and much-loved Melbourne narrator, Arnold Zable will complement the concert with his insightful and surprising stories reflecting on the notion of ‘haven’.
The repertoire includes the driving African-American gospel song Freedom Road, the gentle Mai Fali Eh, a Timorese song that calls children home at sunset, and Dr G Yunupingu’s sublime Marrandil, about running out to the tidal mud flats to catch shell fish. Our Home Our Land is Lou Bennett’s anthem to country, to the land that nurtures us. Aladji, a West African song, sings of the importance of music, and uniting in our humanity. Chilean song Todo Cambia—“everything changes”—exhorts the listener to embrace life’s vagaries. Shane Howard’s anthem to Indigenous strength and fortitude, Solid Rock, features a rousing final two choruses sung in Pitjantjatjara, declaring that “we are standing in the most sacred place… we have been standing the wrong way… the wind is blowing stronger… now we are standing the right way.”
The Boîte Millennium Chorus started in 1999 as a one-off major celebration to usher in the 2000s and highlight the work of The Boîte in bringing culturally diverse music and musicians to Australian audiences. It was so successful, and the audience response so overwhelmingly positive, that The Boîte arranged another concert the following year. Since then the massed choir has grown to become the most popular, anticipated and well-attended concert in The Boîte’s packed world music event calendar.
Audiences, critics and choir members alike are incredibly moved by the performances, and unanimous in their praise.
Comments include: “I feel privileged to have been a part of something so meaningful and joyous. I believe the world is a better place when we sing…”, “The choir stood and their first note literally sent shivers up my arm…”, and “An incredibly uplifting atmosphere… the voices of 300 Australians raised harmoniously…”

About The Boîte Millennium Chorus
The Boîte Millennium Chorus is a major community engagement project that creates opportunities for Victorian singers and audiences of all ages to participate in a large-scale arts event. The project is socially inclusive and accessible to people of all genders, ethnicities and abilities. The regional choir program ensures that singers from across the state can learn repertoire, engage with other cultures within Melbourne’s community and from across the world, as well as perform in a grand concert at a prestigious venue. It addresses the human need to participate in the arts and storytelling, celebrates Australia’s cultural diversity, and supports the wealth of musical talent in our community.
The Chorus aims to support the work of new and existing choirs, musicians and professional choir leaders in regional and metropolitan Victoria. It creates access to an array of highly skilled choir leaders and artists from diverse cultural backgrounds. All repertoire has been commissioned by the Boîte and arranged specifically for this project.
The Boîte Millennium Chorus is supported by Creative Victoria.

The Boîte Millennium Chorus 2017, ‘Haven’
Sunday 20th August 2017, 2.30pm—5.00pm (approx. 2.5 hours with interval)
Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre
1 Convention Centre Place, South Wharf VIC 3006
Ticket prices: $32—$125 (A, B, C Reserve available in concession, under 25 and under 17 prices; Premium seats $125)
Ticketing URL:
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The Boîte Millennium Chorus 2017: Haven


Roger King, Boîte director
From his childhood in South Africa to working as an engineer in Malaysia and on the Snowy Mountains Hydro Electric Project among a diverse multicultural workforce, Roger developed a deep and abiding interest in different cultures. He has a profound respect for the wisdom and generosity of peoples in humble circumstances, and a lifelong passion for music from all corners of the world.
In 1984, he and his partner, Therese Virtue, began coordinating The Boîte, a pioneering multicultural arts organisation that celebrates and supports cultural diversity through music. The Boîte has forged meaningful relationships with countless musicians, artists, dancers, writers and storytellers; presented thousands of events, from concerts in Hamer Hall to street songs in the back lanes of Fitzroy; and encouraged people of all ages to attend concerts, join choirs and participate in musical and vocal workshops. The Boîte facilitates creative spaces for people from many different communities, including artists who have been forced to flee from their homeland, offering friendship and support.
In 1999 Roger and Therese worked with choir director Melanie Shanahan to create the inaugural Boîte Melbourne Millennium Chorus. The concert received rave reviews and has since been the organisation’s premier annual event. In 2017, the Boîte Millennium Chorus is celebrating its 20th concert, this time with the theme of ‘Haven’.
Roger is also a keen singer, performing with Gorani, a 10-voice men’s ensemble specialising in traditional village songs from Georgia and Bulgaria and appearing on national radio and TV in Georgia, Bulgaria and Australia.

James Rigby and Jane Thompson
Directors—Marrandil, Solid Rock, Aladji
James Rigby and Jane Thompson believe in the power of song to communicate and reflect issues of our time. They are skilled and experienced performers, teachers and choir leaders, highly respected in their community of Castlemaine and sought-after across the country for their warm and inviting leadership style, and stunning choir arrangements.
Artistic directors of Gurrong, the 2014 Boîte Millennium Chorus, they lead festival choirs and singing events around Australia, and have a knack for finding or writing songs that capture the spirit of a place or time. An award-winning songwriter, Jane released her debut solo album Here in November 2013, complemented by James’ beautiful multi-instrumental playing.

Stella Savy
Director—Lari Bazar, Mon Moulin Pas Moulin Kopwa
Stella is a multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and singer from the Seychelle Islands, who has been a professional musician in Australia for more than 25 years. Her original music is influenced by her Seychelles heritage—the sounds of the islands fused with reggae, funk and ska guitar rhythms. She has also been a vocal coach for more than 20 years and has her own music school CocoSounds based in Ballarat, conducting groups such as Sweet Mona’s Choir, the Mini Mona’s Choir and Thursday Night Community Choir.
Stella was co-director/conductor for The Boîte Millennium Chorus 2011, Freedom Road, wrote and co-directed/conducted the 2013 concert Coco de Mer and conducted 2016’s Windrush.

Penny Larkins and Carl Pannuzzo
Directors—Todo Cambia
Penny Larkins is a performer with 25 years’ experience as a professional singer, actor, writer, educator, choir director and workshop facilitator. She combines a Masters in Voice (NIDA), Bachelor of Arts Musical Theatre (WAAPA) and Diploma of Education (RMIT) with a lifetime of practical and empathic experience to cultivate a rich palette of expressions and capacities. Performance and project involvement include Boy From Oz, the original Australasian tour of Mamma Mia, Hamlet, Oz Opera’s Way Dead Cool, Doubt: A Parable, Woodford Festival Fire Event finale, premiere of Ned (a new Australian Musical), Punctum Live Arts Hardcore Member and curation of Quiet Place concert series. Teaching experience includes Penn State University, University of Southern Mississippi, Jugend in Wien (Austria), NIDA, AIM, Sydney Children’s Festival choir, Millennium Chorus and Schools Chorus.
Carl Pannuzzo, vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, autodidact, songwriter and educator, is in demand nationally and internationally, performing/recording with many artists and projects as varied as Bob Sedergreen, Opera Australia, Shane Howard, Mia Dyson, Stephen Magnusson, Punctum Live Arts, Sydney Childrens Festival, Kavisha Mazzella, Cirque du Soleil, Tripod and Music Outback. A highly sought-after workshop facilitator and choir director, Carl’s unique approach to voice, harmony and intention, makes for engaging and joyous processes and sublime results.

Geoffrey Williams
Director and composer—The Boat, Hometown
Geoffrey is a singer, songwriter and music producer with a career spanning over a quarter of a century. A loop artist, his career highlights include five albums recorded with major labels such as Atlantic Records and EMI, writing for artists such as Michael Jackson and Dusty Springfield, and playing at Wembley Arena, Woodford Folk Festival and Bendigo Blues and Roots Festivals.
Geoffrey was artistic director of the 2016 Boîte Millennium Chorus Windrush, with Stella Savy as choral director. He lectures in songwriting at the Victorian College of the Arts, teaches voice and runs choirs in Daylesford, Ballarat and Melbourne.

Andrea Khoza
Director—Walk With Me, Malwandle, O Hele Ho, Mai Fali Eh, Our Home Our Land
Andrea is an experienced singer, songwriter, vocal teacher and workshop tutor, who has been working as a professional musician since 1997. She co-founded vocal quartet, Akasa, which recorded three albums, two of which won the US Contemporary Acappella Recording Awards for Best World/Folk Album.
Since 2002 she has been working as a teacher at schools such as Sophia Mundi Steiner School in Abbotsford and more recently heading the music department at Penbank Campus of Woodleigh School in Baxter. Andrea has directed massed choirs including the 2002 Woodford Fire Event Choir of 400 voices, Melbourne City Council’s Sing For Water, and a 500 piece children’s choir for Melbourne Commonwealth Games in 2005. In 2008 she directed the Boite Schools Chorus (350 voices) and the Boîte Millennium Chorus (350 adult voices), focusing on the music of South Africa. In conjunction with the Boite and her husband, Valanga Khoza, she brought out a secondary school choir from remote South Africa to perform in Australia. From 2010-12 Andrea directed the highly successful hip hop choir, Massive, and has directed the Boîte Millennium Chorus many times.

Storyteller and soloists

Arnold Zable
Arnold is an acclaimed writer, novelist and human rights advocate. His books include Jewels and Ashes, Cafe Scheherazade, The Fig Tree, Scraps of Heaven, Sea of Many Returns, Violin Lessons, and most recently, The Fighter. His work-in-progress, Refugium, was published in Italy in January, 2017. He is the author of numerous essays, columns, features, and co-author of Kan Yama Kan, a play in which asylum seekers tell their stories. His storytelling ventures include Wanderers & Dreamers, Anytime the Wind Can Change, and Journeys to Ithaca. Arnold has engaged with refugees, bushfire survivors, the homeless, the deaf, and other groups, using story as a means of self-understanding, and in recent years conducted annual workshops for Cambodian writers. He has a doctorate from the School of Creative Arts, Melbourne University, and has been a guest lecturer internationally and in Australian Universities. He is an ambassador of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, a patron of Sanctuary and in 2013 received the Voltaire Prize for human rights advocacy. Arnold was the storyteller in two previous Millennium choir concerts: Flight and Azadi. The Fig Tree CD, produced by The Boîte, and a musical companion to the book won the National Folk Recording award in 2004.
Arnold will complement the concert with his insightful and surprising stories reflecting on the notion of ‘haven’—a place of refuge, safety and belonging.

Mitch Tambo
Mitch is a proud Gamilaraay / Birri Gubba (Queensland) man based in Melbourne. He is known for his Yidaki (Didgeridoo) playing, traditional dancing and singing, and is currently wrapping up series two of a children’s TV series he has been hosting which will be on Channel 9 Imparja and NITV. ​Didgeridoo player, traditional Indigenous dancer and singer, he is a triple threat talent who has already made his way from country Australia to the world stage, blending his traditional sounds with the most contemporary.
Mitch will open the 2017 Boîte Millennium Chorus concert on Didjeridoo, leading into Melanie Shanhan’s Walk With Me.

Jessica Hitchcock
Award-winning opera singer, actor and songwriter Jessica Hitchcock is an up-and-coming Indigenous performer with family origins from Saibai in the Torres Straits. In the past five years she has transitioned from a jazz background into the world of opera. She debuted in the role of Alice in Short Black Opera’s production of Pecan Summer, for which she won a Broadway World award for best supporting actress in opera. Her years with Short Black Opera led to the opportunity to sing a lead role in Opera Australia’s production of The Rabbits, for which she was awarded a prestigious Green Room Award for Best Female in a supporting role in 2016. More recently Jessica has been working with Jessie Lloyd on the Mission Songs Project. She has just been nominated for an APRA Professional Development Award in the Indigenous Music and Media category (due to be announced in late July).
For the Boîte Millennium Chorus 2017, Jessica will sing Lou Bennett’s Our Home, Our Land.

Sally Ford
Sally is a respected musician (saxophone, flute) and songwriter who has performed with seminal Melbourne bands including Joe Camilleri’s Black Sorrows, Sally Ford and the Pachuco Playboys, Paul Kelly’s High Rise Bombers, Texicali Rose, Lola’s Lost Weekend and The Kevins. She currently works with the Melbourne Ska Orchestra and Dr Hernández.
She has lead various community workshops at festivals and events around Australia, including Broome Arts Festival, Port Fairy Folk Festival, The Boîte Singers Festival, Mildura Arts Festival, Turramurra Music Camp and corporate clients including the Nous Group, Forrester Taylor and MADworks.
In this years’ Boîte Millennium Chorus, Sally will sing Todo Cambia.

Lamine Sonko
Lamine is pushing musical boundaries with his unique fusion of African roots music, jazz, Latin and Afro-classical soul. His work has been described as ‘uplifting and soulful’, transcending lines between ancient Africa and the new world diaspora. Originally from Senegal, Lamine is one of Australia’s most talented and versatile West African musicians. He has directed the Boite’s One Africa Millennium Chorus concert at Arts Centre Melbourne and collaborated on Grammy Award winning album Winds of Samsara. In 2012 he established his 10 piece band, Lamine Sonko and The African Intelligence and released their debut album Afro Empire in 2017. Recent festival reviews define his performances as ‘brimming with optimism and conviction…a circus of song dance, social comment and superb playing’.
Lamine will sing his father’s song Aladji for the Boîte Millennium Chorus 2017.

Darrel Belle
Growing up in the Seychelles, Darrel has been performing from a very young age. He has participated in and headlined concerts across many genres of music from musicals and choirs to solos acoustic sessions. He is lead singer of Melbourne reggae band The Push.
He has a passion for his island music, which includes styles such as Sega, Reggae, Moutya, Dancehall and Soca. Roots and his Creole culture are always at the forefront of his thinking… and he is forever promoting the spirit of ONE LOVE.
Darrel will sing lead vocals on this darkly beautiful song of betrayal, for the concert.

Valanga Khoza
Valanga left South Africa in 1976, exiled along with many other young people because of their struggle against apartheid. The music and stories he has since created reflect the places he has been and the people he has touched throughout his journey across the world as a refugee, finally settling in Australia.
Valanga charms his audiences with humour and wit, telling stories that are embellished by beautiful music form many traditional instruments such as the kalimba, marimba and shijoro (jaw harp) as well as irresistible rhythms from the guitar, percussion and his velvety voice. He has warmed audiences of adults and children at major world music events and in schools across Australia and the Pacific. As well as recording six albums of original music, he is also the author of Gezani and the Tricky Baboon republished by Ford Street in 2014. In 2017, Valanga will be releasing his autobiography Skin In the Game.
Valanga will play drums and sing his song, Malwandle, for the Boîte Millennium Chorus 2017.

Geoffrey Williams
Geoffrey is a singer, songwriter and music producer with a career spanning over a quarter of a century. A loop artist, his career highlights include five albums recorded with major labels such as Atlantic Records and EMI, writing for artists such as Michael Jackson and Dusty Springfield, and playing at Wembley Arena, Woodford Folk Festival and Bendigo Blues and Roots Festivals.
Geoffrey was artistic director of the 2016 Boîte Melbourne Millennium Chorus Windrush, with Stella Savy as choral director. He lectures in songwriting at the Victorian College of the Arts, teaches voice and runs choirs in Daylesford, Ballarat and Melbourne.
In the Boîte Millennium Chorus 2017, Geoffrey will direct and solo in his songs Hometown and The Boat.

The choir songs

The choir songs selected for the 20th Boîte Melbourne Millennium Chorus are drawn from the repertoire of the past decade, and include songs composed and sung in English, Mandinka, Tsonga, Seychellois, Tetum and Indigenous Australian (Yolngu and Pitjantjatjara) languages.
Each song relates to the theme of ‘Haven’ through stories of seeking refuge and freedom, finding a home, falling in love, feeling safe, embracing change and nurturing hope.
Some songs trace journeys by refugees, slaves and immigrants, forced to leave their homeland, enduring great peril and hardship, to building their new lives with hope and strength.
The driving African-American gospel song Freedom Road is about the courage of the slaves who risked all to stand up for their emancipation. The gentle Mai Fali Eh calls children home at sunset; a metaphor for calling all expatriate Timorese home to build a new nation. Geoffrey Williams’ The Boat is about his mother sailing on HMS Windrush from the Caribbean to England, full of hope for her new life.
Other songs celebrate everyday home life and simple joys. Dr G Yunupingu’s Marrandil is a gentle, meditative song about running out to the mud flats to catch shell fish before the tide comes in. Our Home Our Land is Lou Bennett’s anthem to country, to the land that nurtures us.
Still others bring audiences back to the personal; the need for strength in times of adversity and to accept inevitable change. The Millennium Chorus’ first and much-loved director, the late Melanie Shanahan, will be recognised through her song Walk With Me. Its heartfelt plea to “walk with me… I don’t want to walk alone”, resonates with every choir member who sings it and every audience member who hears it.
A highlight is Shane Howard’s (Goanna band) hit song, Solid Rock, featuring a stirring final two choruses sung in Pitjantjatjara, declaring that “we are standing in the most sacred place… we have been standing the wrong way… the wind is blowing stronger now… now we are standing the right way.”
Aladji, a West African song, sings of the importance of music, and beauty, and the unity of humanity. And Todo Cambia—“everything changes”—exhorts the listener to embrace the inevitability of life’s vagaries.

Choir songs include (in program order)
Walk With Me
Composer / arranger: Melanie Shanahan (Australia) Director: Andrea Khoza
Composed and performed in English.
This song is a choir favourite, and one that was constantly requested when Melanie first wrote and performed it with her own acappella quartet, Akasa. This year, it is being sung in her memory. The lyrics are reminiscent of the Serenity Prayer, but with a heartfelt plea to join the singer in the journey of life: “Walk with me, hold my hand, I don’t want to walk alone”.

Composer / arranger: Valanga Khoza (South Africa) Director: Andrea Khoza
Soloist: Valanga Khoza
Composed and performed in Tsonga
This beautiful song mirrors Valanga Khoza’s sea journey as an exile from his homeland South Africa. “My Child where are you going? I am going over the seas. What are you going there for? I’m going to look for knowledge. How are you going to go there? I’m going to swim the ocean. What about the big dangerous fish? I will swim the ocean by boat…”

Composer: Dr G Yunupingu (Yolngu) Arrangers/directors: Jane Thompson and James Rigby
Composed and performed in Yolngu
Dr G Yunupingu’s sublime Marrandil sings praise to the beauty of a sunset, the reflections on the sea, and the joy of running across the tidal flats to gather shellfish.
YouTube: Marrandil, Millennium Chorus 2014

Lari Bazar
Composer / arranger: Traditional, arranged by Stella Savy (Seychelles) Director: Stella Savy
Soloist: Stella Savy Composed and performed in Seychellois
The joyous and playful Lari Bazar celebrates the hustle and bustle of buying fish in a Seychelle Island marketplace.
YouTube: Lari Bazar, Millennium Chorus 2013

Mon Moulin Pas Moulin Kopra
Composer / arranger: Traditional Mutia Seychelles, arranged by Stella Savy (Seychelles)
Director: Stella Savy Soloist: Darrel Belle
Composed and performed in Seychellois
A wife weeps because her husband has gone out dancing Moutya and left her alone. In her grief she is unable to get copra oil from her coconuts at the mill.

Freedom Road
Composer / arranger: Traditional, after the Blind Boys of Alabama
Director: Stella Savy
African American gospel, composed and performed in English
Direct and uplifting—in the way of many African-American gospel songs—Freedom Road is a rousing declaration to keep the faith and stay true to your journey, no matter how hard life gets. “Ain’t gonna let nobody, turn me round, turn me round, turn me round; I’m gonna keep on walkin’, keep on talkin’, walkin’ down freedom road.”
YouTube: Freedom Road, Millennium Chorus 2011

O Hele Ho
Composer / arranger: Traditional East Timorese, arranged by Andrea Khoza
Director: Andrea Khoza
Composed and performed in Tetum
O Hele Ho calls on (Timorese) people to unite as a nation, using the metaphor of many streams that join to make a mighty river.

Mai Fali Eh!
Composer / arranger: Traditional East Timorese, arranged by Andrea Khoza
Director: Andrea Khoza
Composed and performed in Tetum
Mai Fali Eh! uses the words of a mother calling her children back as a metaphor for Timor calling back her scattered and fragmented people to their native homeland.
YouTube: Mai Fali Eh! 2012

The Boat
Composer / arranger, director, soloist: Geoffrey Williams
Composed and performed in English
“This is the story of my mum’s migration. She left St Lucia in the Caribbean, her home, her family and everything she knew because there were no prospects for her there… hoping that maybe life would hold more promise in the UK. The way to get from the Caribbean to the UK in those days was by boat. The journey took 21 days. She had never been on a boat before and was seasick for the whole trip. When the boat arrived in Dover in March 1960, it was freezing. She had never experienced cold like this. Cold in the Caribbean is maybe 17 -18 degrees. No one told her it would be this cold.”

Composer / arranger, musician and soloist: Geoffrey Williams (vocals and keyboard)
Composed and performed in English. Geoffrey will be joined by his fellow choir directors, singing backing vocals.
“This song is a hypothetical letter, the type my dad would have sent to his mum in Dominica. He had been in England for over a decade before he went back to see his family as all of his brothers were now in England. Flights were expensive and he and my mum were doing shift work to pay off the mortgage, put food on the table and all the other family expenses. He and my mum experienced racism at work and in society. My dad’s passion was working with wood. He and wood were a match made in heaven! He dearly wanted to be a carpenter but found it too hard to get started, having to get qualifications.”

Hama Weya
Composer / arranger: Lamine Sonko and O Moyniha, influenced by the sounds of South Africa
Director: Lamine Sonko
African work song meaning “when you can hum the rhythm, you can dance and drum the rhythm.”

Our Home Our Land
Composer / arranger: Lou Bennett (Yorta Yorta / Dja Dja Wurrung)
Director: Andrea Khoza Soloist: Jessica Hitchcock (Saibai, Torres Straits Islands)
Composed and performed in English
Lou Bennett (Tiddas) wrote this song about the importance of country to Indigenous Australians. “… without the land you could not eat, you cannot sleep or breath or live… Our Home is Our Land, where we stand proud and tall. Our Home is our land, where we stand together.”
YouTube: Our Home Our Land, Millennium Chorus 2009

Solid Rock
Composer / arranger: Shane Howard (arr. James Rigby)
Director: Jane Thompson Soloist: James Rigby
Composed in English, performed in English and Pitjantjatjara
Shane Howard wrote Solid Rock after experiencing an epiphany when he went camping near Uluru in 1981. Recorded by his band Goanna as a political rock anthem, the song brought Aboriginal displacement and suffering into the international spotlight and became an unlikely hit song. In 2012 on the 30th anniversary of the song’s release, Howard was invited back to Uluru by the Mutitjulu Community Aboriginal Council for a community carnival to celebrate and promote the well-being of families in remote communities. For that concert, he recorded two new versions of Solid Rock, with one featuring Indigenous children singing the last two choruses in Pitjantjatjara. It is this stirring version, arranged by director James Rigby, that will be performed at the Boîte Melbourne Millennium Chorus concert.
“Standing on solid rock, standing on sacred ground, living on borrowed time, and the winds of change are blowin’ down the line.”

Composer / arranger: Bouli Sonko (Senegal), arranged for choir by Jane Thompson and James Rigby
Directors: Jane Thompson and James Rigby
Soloist: Lamine Sonko
Composed and performed in Mandinka
This song was written by Lamine’s father, for a music competition in Senegal. Lamine’s father was a director of Le Ballet National du Senegal. He also played in several bands, with both Mandingko and Wolof speakers, and they asked him which group he would align himself with, for the competition. He decided to write a song appealing to the judge of the competition—about the importance of music, and unifying humanity—and won the competition! Translation of the verse: “It’s not greatness in terms of size that drives the human soul—it’s only a good heart that accompanies you in your life journey.”
YouTube: Aladji, Millennium Chorus 2015

Todo Cambia
Composer / arranger: Julio Numhauser (Chile), arranged by Penny Larkins and Carl Pannuzzo
Directors: Penny Larkins and Carl Pannuzzo Soloist: Sally Ford
Composed and performed in Spanish and English
Todo Cambia is Spanish for “everything changes”. Written by exiled Chilean musician, Julio Numhauser, this song was made famous by popular Argentine singer Mercedes Sosa, one of the preeminent exponents of nueva canción music; folk-inspired, socially-aware and associated with political activism against the dictatorship of their time. Numhauser was forced to flee Chile in 1973 due to persecution of nueva canción musicians by Augusto Pinochet. The song implores the listener to embrace the changes that affect us all—physical, emotional, intellectual, seasonal, personal and global—rather than trying to resist that we cannot control. The only thing that does not change is the singer’s love for his country and the memories of pain for his people; even though he is far away from them, he is with them in spirit.
YouTube: Todo Cambia, Millennium Chorus 2010

Media release: Melbourne harp player evokes the sound of galaxies forming and golden spaces between the stars… Jacinta Dennett

Virtuoso concert harp player Jacinta Dennett in recital at Bunbury Regional Art Gallery

Acclaimed concert harp player Jacinta Dennett will perform Threaded Stars 2 (2006)—a solo recital featuring works by female composers—at an exclusive concert at Bunbury Regional Art Gallery on Thursday 8th June at 7pm.

This is a rare opportunity for music-lovers to experience Ms Dennett’s virtuoso playing, recognised by music critics and audiences alike for its rare fusion of poetry and physicality. She has a heartfelt and intuitive embodiment of music, with her masterful playing complemented by advanced studies in flamenco dance and martial arts.
Ms Dennett will perform works inspired by her PhD research at the University of Melbourne’s Conservatorium of Music, where she is exploring trends in modern harp repertoire for solo harp by Australian women composers.

Her concert title, Threaded Stars 2, takes its name from a harp solo of the same name by Bunbury-born composer, Jennifer Fowler. Ms Fowler now lives in the UK, and in 2015 approached Ms Dennett asking her to perform Threaded Stars.

Audience members who have previously heard Ms Dennett perform this solo have described it as feeling like “… I was out in the beginning universe with beautiful galaxies being formed,” (Helen Cox, author) and that Ms Dennett’s interpretation was “… dream-heavy—filled with the substance of the gold space between the stars,” (Danae Killian, pianist).

Ms Dennett’s concert will feature works by the following composers:

  • Peggy Glanville-Hicks (Sonata for Harp, 1951)
  • Helen Gifford (Fable, 1967)
  • Elena Kats-Chernin (Chamber of Horrors, 1995)
  • Eve Duncan (The Sun Behind It … Burning It, 2004)
  • Johanna Selleck (Spindrift, 2008)
  • Alicia Grant (Three Pieces, 2017)
  • Miriam Hyde (Sunlit Waterfall, 1993)

For the Bunbury concert, Ms Dennett will play a Salvi ‘Diana’ harp generously loaned by Helen Punch. Of note is that the sound board of Salvi harps is made from Fiemme Valley Spruce; the famous ‘tree of music’ that grows in a UNESCO world heritage area of Italy. Fiemme Valley Spruce is unique in the world for its resonant properties, and is used to manufacture soundboards and tops for all classical musical instruments, included the famed Stradivarius violins.

Ms Dennett’s WA visit is made possible through assistance from The Harp Society of Western Australia Inc. and the Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship, through the University of Melbourne.

About Jacinta Dennett
Jacinta Dennett is a leading figure in harp performance and teaching in Australia, and is emerging as an authority on Australian women composers through her PhD research at the University of Melbourne. Her wide range of performance styles include as concerto soloist, recitalist, orchestral and chamber musician, as well as playing Celtic harp in an Irish band, teaming up with an operatic soprano in duo Bliss! and as a Showcase performer aboard a Japanese cruise ship. Reviewers have declared Jacinta’s performance as ‘beyond reproach’, and one commentator described her unique gift as ‘making architecture through sound’.

About Threaded Stars, by Jennifer Fowler
Composed in 1983 by Jennifer Fowler (b. 1939), this piece for solo harp was revised under the title Threaded Stars 2 in 2006. It comprises a single stream of notes etching out a characteristic pattern: a cluster of notes that revolves around a central note; a kind of ‘star’ pattern in which the central note exerts a gravitational pull on the surrounding notes. Leading from one ‘star’ pattern to another are episodes with a strong sense of direction, or line. The line pulls the stream of notes upwards or downwards until encountering another star pattern.


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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Review & media release: Red Dress and The Sugar Man—Marisa Quigley

Review of Butterfly Club show, Melbourne Fringe Festival 2016, by Diana Wolfe

You don’t have to know or like the music of Tom Waits (although you certainly will by the end of this show) or the extraordinary singing voice of Marisa Quigley (ditto) to be utterly seduced by this captivating beat-poetry-song-noir-cabaret show.

Everything about Red Dress & The Sugar Man interacts seamlessly to draw the audience under its spell. The venue (the elegantly wasted Butterfly Club) and its smoky lighting, the costumes, the performers, the songs, the intriguing and seductive narrative all begin to steal over you even before the 6’2” Titian-haired bombshell Quigley sashays onstage. She’s a latter-day and louche sort of Andrews Sister, a larger-than-life Jessica Rabbit with a voice like a fallen angel. The red velvet curtains part and she joins her backing band—all gangsterish older gents with rolled-up shirtsleeves, pork pie hats, world-weary attitudes and killer chops. Her two female backing singers are squeezed into tiny rock-and-roll dresses; they’re all breathy-voiced-coiffed-hair-staring-into-the-middle-distance-cool and sexy as all get-out. Kinda Jessica Lange in Blue Sky.

Quigley opens her scarlet-lipped mouth: first to begin the story of when Romeo met Rosie, then to sing the first of many carefully-chosen Tom Waits songs. And you’re gone.
She effortlessly affects an American accent, but far from grating or distracting, it only adds to the atmosphere. Her voice is deep, husky, measured, almost matter-of-fact. Playing a role reminiscent of Sam Elliot’s laconic LA cowboy narrator in The Big Lebowski, Quigley unfolds the chance meeting in a late-night coffee dive between the swaggering and dissolute Romeo and Rosie, a bad-girl-back-from-the-brink. Rosie’s clinging tenuously to her new, clean life, her St Christopher neck charm a sort of talisman to her redemption.
Quigley wrote the show (her debut script) and damn, this singer best known for her years of blues and folk performing, is a natural. Her script is playful, tantalising and pitch-perfect in terms of her wordplay, references to Waits’ lyrics, phrasing, delivery, and smooth segues into the next tune. The story of the doomed lovers is familiar and the ending, inevitable… but the journey is fascinating and heartbreaking nevertheless.
During Melbourne Fringe Festival 2016 it’s on at the suitably late hour of 10pm, down the end of seedy Carson Place off Little Collins Street. It’s only an hour long but Red Dress and the Sugar Man will leave you feeling like an extra on a 1940s detective film noir set to a Tom Waits soundtrack, witnessing the slow-motion death of a romance before it had a chance to live.
Media release for Adelaide Fringe Festival 2017—Prodigal daughter returns to Adelaide with tantalising cabaret show

Blues chanteuse Marisa Quigley returns to her Adelaide birthplace with her dark and sultry cabaret show, Red Dress & The Sugar Man.

Performing five shows from Wednesday 15th to Sunday 19th March as part of Adelaide Fringe, Red Dress & The Sugar Man is an original one-hour show that interweaves the music of Tom Waits with the modern-day story of a doomed love affair. The swaggering, dissolute Romeo and bad-girl-back-from-the-brink Rosie meet by chance at an all-night diner and fall prey to each other’s addictive allure, before drowning in a sea of regret.

You don’t have to know or like the music of Tom Waits or the extraordinary singing voice of Marisa Quigley to be utterly seduced by this captivating beat-poetry-music-noir-cabaret show. Everything about Red Dress & the Sugar Man interacts seamlessly to draw the audience under its spell. The performers, the songs and the seductive narrative all begin to steal over you even before the 6ft-tall Titian-haired bombshell Quigley sashays onstage.

With a cooking live band and lush harmonies, and set in Adelaide’s home of divine decadence, La Bohème, Red Dress & the Sugar Man will draw you in and leave you feeling like an extra on a 1940s detective film-noir, after witnessing the slow-motion death of a romance that never had a chance to live.

Marisa Quigley is an award-winning blues singer and songwriter, solo artist and cabaret performer. She lives in country Victoria, by way of Darwin and South Australia, and continues to travel to wherever her music takes her. She is a long-time Tom Waits obssessionado, and Red Dress & The Sugar Man marks her debut as a librettist. She has road-tested and refined the show to packed audiences and adoring fans throughout regional Victoria as well as the 2016 Melbourne Fringe Festival, and is thrilled to be back performing at the Adelaide Fringe Festival, which she last performed at in 2014.

Associate Professor David Mackenzie

Media campaign: The Costs of Youth Homelessness in Australia

With lead agency Margot Gorski PR Matters, I worked on the national launch of a world-first study into the costs of youth homelessness to the Australian economy.

The study by a leading homelessness researcher and two economists showed that preventing young people from becoming homeless by strengthening and integrating school and youth services at a community level could save an estimated $626 million per year across the youth justice and health services systems alone.

The report provides important evidence that early intervention works, and deserves investment to prevent future costs and the devastating social and personal impacts of youth homelessness.

Principal researchers: Associate Professor David Mackenzie (Swinburne), Professor Paul Flatau (The University of Western Australia) and Professor Adam Steen (Charles Sturt University).

Media reach—summary:

  • Estimated online views 213K
  • Social shares 1.67K
  • Press circulation 325K
  • Radio audience reach 1224K
Media coverage included:
  • ABC Radio 702 Sydney, 666 Canberra, 774 Melbourne, 891 Adelaide, 720 Perth, 612 Brisbane, 936 Hobart
  • ABC Radio and Online, The World Today with Rachael Brown (Listen: The price tag of youth homelessness)
  • ABC Radio National Drive with Patricia Karvelas
  • ABC Radio National Canberra with Kim Landers
  • ABC Radio Newcastle, Illawarra, Broken Hill, Mid North Coast, Central West NSW, Western Plains, Riverina, Far North
  • Radio Triple J Sydney
  • Radio 2GB Sydney
  • Radio 4BC Brisbane
  • Radio 2MCE Orange
  • Radio Adelaide
  • Herald Sun online
  • The Conversation
  • Australian Policy Online
  • The Canberra Times
  • Pro Bono Australia
  • Bendigo Advertiser
  • The Standard
  • The Ballarat Courier
  • SBS Online
  • The Border Mail
  • The West Australian (Op Ed)

Media information:

Essay: Beyond The Third Fret

Despite recent acclaim for Courtney Barnett, the representation of female instrumentalists at our major music awards remains dismal. Diana Wolfe questions why women who play instruments still struggle to find recognition, credibility and awards success in Australia.

This essay was first published in Aphra magazine (no longer in publication) on 28 September 2015.

Beyond the Third Fret

by Diana Wolfe

In the October 2014 edition of Uncut magazine, Jack White of The White Stripes bemoaned the gender disparity in the US music industry, highlighting the ‘novelty’ factor of seeing women instrumentalists on stage.
“When you have all-female acts or female front people, there’s a different perception. It’s sort of a real shame that if a woman goes onstage with an instrument – a guitar or drums or something – it’s almost a novelty to people, like ‘Oh isn’t that cute?’,” he said.
However, while this sexist attitude is also rife throughout the Australian music scene, few are calling it out.
With the most recent exception of Melbourne guitarist-singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett, our female musicians always have been—and still are—overlooked and excluded here.
And apart from an occasional mention of the lack of women invited to perform at major festivals and the lack of fair treatment for female artists, nobody really talks about it.
Of the many examples of gender inequality in music, perhaps the most insidious is the ongoing under-representation of female musicians in major awards ceremonies.
Industry awards are critical for an artists’ career because of the direct and lasting impact on their credibility, profile, music sales, future opportunities and career longevity. For example, winning an Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) award generates enormous attention for an artist and can significantly boost sales and chart performance.
As recently as 2014, Head of Artists and Repertoire (A&R) at Mushroom Music Publishing, Linda Bosidis, said the Australian music industry is in a ‘time warp’ when it comes to gender equality.
‘Yep, too many dudes!’ says Bosidis. ‘Music awards are where cracks appear… (and) this extends to the negligible number of women featured in the media, represented on boards, music conferences and panels and in A&R positions for labels and publishers, music critics, journalists and radio station programmers.’
Bosidis’s view is supported by the facts: a review of our five largest music awards reveals not just cracks, but a gaping chasm. You can count on one hand the number of female instrumentalists who have featured in these ceremonies. Remove the female vocalists and guitarists, and there are almost no women at all.
Take a look at the ARIA Hall of Fame: of the 73 artists and music industry figures inducted since 1988, not one is a female musician. Apart from a handful of female vocalists, they are men and all-male bands.
Just some of the notable female musicians missing from the Hall of Fame are multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter and screenwriter-composer Johanna Pigott, best known for co-writing Dragon’s Rain and John Farnham’s Age of Reason. When Age of Reason topped the Australian charts in July 1988, Pigott became the first Australian woman to have written a number 1 hit.
Drummer Lindy Morrison played with seminal indie rock band The Go Betweens from 1980 to 1989. She’s also a social activist who has made a significant contribution to recording musicians’ rights through her involvement in the Phonographic Performance Company of Australia. In 2013 she was awarded an Order of Australia Medal for services as a performer and advocate. She’s a Lifetime Honorary Member of the Music Council of Australia, and won the 2014 Ted Albert Award for Outstanding Services to Australian Music.
Award-winning rock-pop guitarist-songwriter-singer Deborah Conway was a founding member of 1980s band Do-Ré-Mi, which had a hit with the song Man Overboard. Conway had a top 20 hit single with It’s Only the Beginning, and won the 1992 ARIA for Best Female Artist. She organised and performed on the Broad Festivals from 2005 to 2008 show-casing contemporary Australian female artists, and continues to perform, write and record.
Adelaide performer Sister Janet Mead soared to international stardom in 1974 with her rock-gospel recording of The Lord’s Prayer. A surprise hit, it reached number 3 on the Australian singles chart and number 4 on the US Billboard Top 100, as well as earning her a Grammy Award nomination and an Australian Yamaha Golden Gospel Award. Sister Mead was a classically trained pianist and an acoustic guitarist who believed that ‘rock masses’ were a powerful way to make Catholicism more accessible to her students. She recorded three albums of rock-gospel music and was performing and working as a musical director into the 2000s. Arguably, she was as much of a pioneer on the Australian Christian-gospel music scene as influential guitarist Sister Rosetta Tharpe was on the US crossover blues-rock-gospel scene.
It’s the same throughout all the other mainstream music awards, with no sign of change despite the recent wave of outstanding female musicians to rock our stages.
Of the 28 times the ARIA Album Of The Year has been awarded, only two solo female musicians have won in this category: Kasey Chambers and Missy Higgins. Even when you include line-ups with female instrumentalists, there have been only two winners—Baby Animals (Suze DeMarchi, guitar) and Angus & Julia Stone (Julia, guitar and trumpet).
The Best Group ARIA has only twice been won by a band that includes a female musician—The Black Sorrows in 1990, featuring Jen Anderson on violin, and Sheppard in 2014, featuring sisters Amy and Emma Sheppard on harmonica and bass, respectively.
The APRA-AMCOS Art Music Awards 2015 finalists’ list included just three women among 32 men in seven of the major categories, while the prestigious $30,000 Australian Music Prize has never been awarded to a solo female musician in its 11-year history.
This pattern was repeated across the nominees for the 2014 Carlton Dry Independent Music Awards: just 15 of the 130 musicians nominated in the indie band / artist categories were women. And of the 155 artists nominated for The Age Music Victoria Genre Awards in 2014, only 11 were female instrumentalists.
It’s a baffling phenomenon that can’t be explained away by a lack of talent, ability, ambition or worthiness. From speaking with a number of accomplished and respected local female musicians, the reasons are complex, culturally entrenched, and rarely discussed.
In a music career spanning more than 20 years, nine albums, numerous film soundtracks and international performances, acclaimed blues and roots vocalist and rhythm guitarist Kerri Simpson has seen some positive developments.
‘There has been enormous change in some areas of the industry; in some genres women are evenly represented and those playing in bands are no longer the rarity they were in the seventies,’ she says.
In other areas, however, she says it’s as lopsided as ever.
‘Much remains as it was decades ago. For example, there are still very few women in studio or live music production,’ Simpson laments.‘It saddens me that my teenage daughter, who plays guitar, bass, drums, sings and composes, experiences exactly the same kind of bullying and humiliation from boys as I did when I was doing my first gigs.’
Rachel By The Stream is a Melbourne-based Electronic Dance Music (EDM) composer, musician and singer, who performed at the prestigious UK Glastonbury Festival in 2013. She sees the lack of representation of women at EDM festivals as a major challenge.
‘Open an EDM festival program and 95% of the artists are male… page after page of male faces staring at you,’ Rachel says.
Folk songwriter-guitarist Helen Begley sees more women than ever participating on stages around the country. However, her experiences show that no matter how accomplished women musicians are, once they’re on stage with men they often retreat.
‘Recently, I shared the stage with two fellas who are songwriters and guitarists. We took it in turns to do a song each. As we got into the gig, the dynamic began to shift and I found myself giving ground… I stopped taking my turn, I deferred to them, I began to believe that I had nothing to contribute that would stand up beside their soul-driven blues songs.
‘I’ve noticed this dynamic time and time again; women retreating from the musical space and blokes claiming the vacated territory. Once women have disappeared, it is quite a battle to reclaim that space.’
To hear classically-trained jazz-blues guitarist Jen Hawley in action, with her sublime feel and nuanced solos, you’d never guess she was once lacking in confidence. However, when she first started playing in bands, she felt she didn’t measure up against her male peers.
‘People used to say, ‘you’re only here to pick up guys’,’ she says. In the 1990s she started going to jazz and blues jam sessions to challenge her playing and stage skills. ‘I found it terrifying,’ she says. ‘The guys would play songs in a tempo or key that I couldn’t keep up with. I soon stopped going along.’
Running her own music school, Hawley finds that girls tend to hang back and play alone, whereas the boys tend to practise their scales and share ideas, chords and music at rehearsals.
‘The fact that so few women play instruments on stage makes it harder for girls to come up through the industry,’ says Hawley. ‘You don’t often see women guitarists shredding or going up beyond the third fret. What’s lacking for a lot of girls is the confidence and resilience to keep playing, and to step up and take solos.’
Where the music industry fails to even identify sexism as an issue, other arts sectors have responded by introducing women-only awards such as the Stella Prize for female authors and the Portia Geach Memorial Award for fine artists.
Author Clare Wright says winning the 2014 Stella Prize has given her book, The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka, an enormous sales boost but also, importantly, it has elevated the status of women’s writing in Australia and overseas.
‘Since winning, my book automatically started being displayed more prominently in stores, I’ve seen a verifiable increase in sales, and it has received massive media attention,’ Wright says.
While lobbying for an all-female music award is one approach, another might be to shake up existing award categories. For example, the AU Review Music Awards don’t have gender-based categories. Instead they present awards for diverse musical styles, instrumental prowess, live performance and touring success. In their first year, 2014, it was encouraging to see a number of female musicians among the nominees and major winners such as Courtney Barnett, who won three awards including Guitarist of the Year.
However, we still need to advocate for wider change. If the music industry itself doesn’t recognise its gender bias, women instrumentalists will continue to be ignored. The fact that they are largely absent from major awards means that they’re not on our radar, so we don’t buy their music, go to their gigs or vote for them in awards and Top 100 lists. It’s a self-perpetuating problem.
At best, it may slowly resolve itself through broader community efforts to level out the gender imbalance across all industries, or through the new groundswell of women musicians such as Barnett, Clare Bowditch, Mia Dyson and others.
At worst, it will continue to stymie hundreds of talented girls and women in their pursuit of a career in contemporary music, and deny them the opportunity to achieve wider success, for years to come.

Further reading: