News location:

Canberra Today 13°/15° | Wednesday, November 29, 2023 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

‘Glorious’ performance demands a bigger audience

The Song Company. Photo: Peter Hislop.

Music / The Song Company, “Songs from the Heart”. At Larry Sitsky Recital Room, October 4. Reviewed by GRAHAM McDONALD.

“SONGS from the Heart” is a suite of songs composed by two female First Nations composers, Elizabeth Sheppard and Sonya Holowell, with the texts of the songs partially based on excerpts from the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

The songs are grouped in five sections, or perhaps movements, with each composer contributing to each section.

The compositional styles of the two women are quite different.

Composer, Elizabeth Sheppard. Photo: Peter Hislop.

Sheppard’s music is more melodic, with suggestions of modern liturgical music, while Holowell’s work is decidedly more modern with semi-tone dissonances and abrupt shifts of tempo. The first three of the five sections used Sheppard’s gentler music for the first parts, then ending with Holowell’s confrontational music.

Holowell’s contributions to the two final movements were decidedly less angular and not as great a contrast as the songs in the earlier sections.

Composer Sonya Holowell. Photo: Peter Hislop.

The composers had the advantage of writing for eight very skilled singers, with Holowell as part of the performance group. Having eight voices allows for some wondrously complex chords over several octaves, with the high soprano of Susannah Lawergren soaring above the ensemble in many of the songs. Singling Lawergren out is perhaps unfair, as the singing was superb from all the singers with the scoring allowing all a chance to be heard with tenor Elias Wilson and soprano Holowell taking many of the leads (though not so much in her own songs!).

Retiring director Antony Pitts. Photo: Peter Hislop.

For artistic director Antony Pitts, this is his last tour leading the ensemble after seven years at the helm. He has certainly changed the course of the Song Company over that time and there have been some memorable performances, this one included. They have all been different and always intriguing.

Whether or not a suite of songs can influence the upcoming referendum around the Uluru Statement’s request for a Voice can be discussed, but you would like to think it might. It is a powerful artistic comment on, and reaction to, the Uluru Statement and deserves to heard more widely than by 30 people on a Tuesday night in the dry acoustic of the Larry Sitsky recital room. It needs a larger, more reverberant space and a larger audience to be immersed in this glorious work.

Who can be trusted?

In a world of spin and confusion, there’s never been a more important time to support independent journalism in Canberra.

If you trust our work online and want to enforce the power of independent voices, I invite you to make a small contribution.

Every dollar of support is invested back into our journalism to help keep strong and free.

Become a supporter

Thank you,

Ian Meikle, editor

Helen Musa

Helen Musa

Share this

Leave a Reply

Related Posts


Enchanting program of magical music.

On their first Australian tour, violinist Noa Wildschut and pianist Elisabeth Brauss captivated the audience at Llewellyn Hall with an enchanting program of magical music, writes reviewer DANTE COSTA.

Follow us on Instagram @canberracitynews