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Biraban : SA choir

by Wendy Ireland (2003)

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The Australian Music Centre's catalogue does not include any recordings or sheet music of this work. This entry is for information purposes only.

Materials for this work may be lodged in our collection in the future. Until then, any enquiries should be made directly to the composer/sound artist or their agent.

Work Overview

Biraban (original spelling and now known as Birabaan) is the Awabakal name for Wedge-Tailed Eagle. "The Biraban eagle (Aquila audax) is a high order totem, and was the overall totem for the Awabakal people." Quoted from the Awabakal dictionary.

This work was originally titled Biame but was subsequently re-named by Awabakul elder, Aunt Phylis Darcy, "Biraban".

The work was written for the Chamber Choir of Newcastle Grammar School after a visit to the site of the painting at Millbrodale in the Hunter Valley. The painting depicts the regional Aboriginal spiritual guardian (Biame), ascending into the sky. Following this visit, other Aboriginal paintings depicting the creation were viewed. The English text of Biraban was then written as a description of these artistic representations.

The three regional tribes referred to in the work are the Wonnarua 'the people of the hills and plains' of the Hunter Valley (Muswellbrook), Worimi (Port Stevens) and Awabakal (Newcastle) tribes. "The Eagle Hawk tribes suffered terribly in the wake of British settlement. Disease, violence and dispossession were all part of the process of a physical and mental assault that impacted in a massive scale on these people." Quoted from "Dreaming Stories" Cultural Heritage. Aboriginalhunter.com 2004

The work is written for A Capella SSATB Choir. Creating the idea of the gathering clans, it is intended that performers will progressively walk in while singing. As the tribes gather the elders (soloists) tell of the story of the creation, followed by a section in Awabakul language depicting local bush sounds. The work closes with spoken Awabakul text as the tribes respond to their disposession.

I would like to pay tribute to the Wonnarua, Worimi and Awabakal people and to ask that this work be performed with respect to those for whom the Millbrodale painting has spiritual significance. In particular, I would like to thank Awabakal Elder, Aunt Phylis Darcy for her help and guidance and for allowing me to use Awabakal language in this work, including her suggested title, Biraban (Eagle Hawk).

I would also like to acknowledge the help and guidance provided by Daryn McKenny and the staff at the Arwarbukarl Cultural Resource Association.

Wendy Ireland

Work Details

Year: 2003

Instrumentation: SSA choir.

Duration: 4 min.

Dedication note: Dedicated to Aunt Phylis Darcy

Commission note: Commissioned by Newcastle Grammar School.

Text based on the language of the Wonnarua, Worimi and Awabakal Aboriginal tribes.


Performances of this work

2003: City of Sydney Eisteddfod, Town Hall, Sydney

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