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Coal River : brass band

by Barry McKimm (1996)

Coal River


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Coal River : for brass band / Barry McKimm

Library shelf no. 784.9/MCK 1 [Available for loan]

Work Overview

The commission was to compose a work relative to the history of Newcastle, from the earliest settlement to the present day. There are six main sections, all through composed.
The First section "The Fatal Shore" inspired by Robert Hughes' writings.
The Second section, "The Baying Hounds" inspired by Mary Gilmore's poem about the hounding and killing of the local indigenous people.
The Third section, "Come You Not From Newcastle." A development of the traditional folksong from Newcastle in the U.K. Many miners and settlers came to Australia from Newcastle.
The Fourth section "Beneath Tidal Water" about the coal mining. This section is developed from the famous brass band hymn, Crimond. Many mines had their own brass band. Crimond would have been very much part of the repertoire.
The Fifth section "Shaping The Hunter" is a recapitulation and further development of the first section, "The Fatal Shore." In a sense this is a continuation from the penal settlement into the establishment of coal mining villages.
The Sixth section is "Finale" which is both celebrationary and triumphant. That from grim and violent beginnings Newcastle is now an important, vibrant city.

Work Details

Year: 1996

Instrumentation: Soprano cornet, solo cornet 1 & 2, repiano cornet, 2nd cornet, 3rd cornet, flugel horn, solo tenor horn, 1st horn, 2nd horn,  baritone horn 1 & 2, tenor trombone 1 & 2, bass trombone, Eb tuba, Bb tuba, timpani, ratchet, percussion 1 (snare drum, cymbals), percussion 2 (bass drum, cymbals, glockenspiel, tubular bells, tam-tam), percussion 3 (bass drum, cymbals, xylophone, vibraphone, glockenspiel).

Duration: 19 min.

Difficulty: Advanced — "A" grade Brass Test for Australian National Band Championships 1997

Commission note: Commissioned by the Hunter Region Band Association Inc. as part of the Bicentennial Commemorations for the Hunter Region

Narrative structure developed from two hundred years of settlement history.

The composer notes the following references:
Robert Hughes (1988) The fatal shore ; James Miller (1985) Koori, a will to wing: the Heroic Resistance, Survival & Triumph of Black Australia. Keith Clouten (1967)  Reid's mistake, The story of Lake Macquarie from discovery until 1890. Mary Gilmore (1979) “The Baying Hounds” from The passionate heart, Sirius Paperbacks. Ed Tonks (1985) Beneath tidal water: the story of Newcastle's Harbour Collieries. Terry Callen, (1986) Bar dangerous: a maritime history of Newcastle. John Armstrong, editor (1983) Shaping the Hunter: a story of the engineers and engineering development of the present shape of the Hunter Region, its river, cities, industries and transport arteries.

The composer gives acknowledgements to David Kurthi, Administrator for the Hunter Region Ban Association Inc., who invited me to compose this work, and showed me around the Valley. To Bob James, Historian, who inspired me with many stories of local history. To Mick Davidson of Wollotuka, Newcastle University, who shared , with irrepressible enthusiasm, aspects of Koori life and history. To Robin and Pat Loftus for support, friendship, and for the many contacts they made on my behalf. To Bill Sykes for his companionship as we travelled around the region gathering ideas. To the Australia Council of the Arts for their support.


Performances of this work

Unknown date: Newcastle Town Hall, Newcastle NSW

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