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27 August 2018

Julian Day in the Barossa


Julian Day at 'the community salon', Barossa Regional Art Gallery, Hill & Son organ in the background Image: Julian Day at 'the community salon', Barossa Regional Art Gallery, Hill & Son organ in the background  

Leah Blankendaal writes about a project in the Barossa, SA, involving the Sydney-based composer and sound artist Julian Day.

We're a generous bunch in the Barossa! We're a region of makers, of foodies, and of craftspeople. We're a region that connects people with land, with weather, with food and with wine. It makes for a unique way of life.

We're also a region with a unique musical heritage. In the 1840s, German-speaking Lutherans landed in South Australia. Those who came were craftspeople that brought with them a tradition of organ building, choirs and brass bands. The organs built by these migrants can still be seen and heard in the churches that scatter our region. In fact, we're very proud of the fact that we have more organs per capita than anywhere else in the world.

These organs alone are interesting historical artefacts. In the 1840s the region's known organ builders, Daniel Lemke and Johann Carl August Kruger, constructed instruments that are still in use today. Fast-track to the 1990s/2000s, and the region has taught itself to rebuild and restore the mighty Hill & Son Organ that sits in the Barossa Regional Gallery.

It is this continued, uninterrupted musical culture that makes the Barossa region truly unique. The Tanunda Liedertafel, a men's choir whose origins date back to 1851, the Tanunda Town Band, which started in 1857, exist alongside contemporary musicians Stella One Studio who advocate fearlessly for the region's singer-songwriters.

How then to celebrate this heritage? It seems to me there is only one way: to make music. Sometimes, however, it takes an outsider to help to see the extraordinary in our everyday. That's why we've invited composer and sound artist Julian Day, through a commission provided by Country Arts South Australia and the Barossa Council, to work with us to develop a new musical work. Through this process Julian will collaborate with our choirs, our bands, and our creatives to develop a work that continues and adds to this region's musical traditions. From this work he will create a touring sound and video installation that draws on the original live performance to create a multimedia experience.

So far stage one of this project has been completed. In a whirlwind five-day residency, Julian met with local arts groups, historians, community leaders and council to take in the region. Everywhere we went the reception was warm, from individual conversations to our community salon, in which local leaders donated their time to assist us in exploring what we should know about the region's culture and how we can work together. From these conversations Julian will develop a proposal that will be provided to the community as acknowledgement of the equal part they are playing in this work's creation. In 2019, Julian will return to complete the project.

It's my hope that through this process we can bring together what is truly unique about the Barossa, and contribute in a meaningful way to its cultural heritage. As a relative outsider to the Barossa myself, I am continually surprised at how craft and creativity are not just buzzwords here, they're a way of life. It's a remarkable way to live!

AMC resources

Julian Day - AMC profile

Leah Blankendaal - AMC profile


Subjects discussed by this article:


Leah Blankendaal is the Arts and Cultural Facilitator with Regional Development Australia Barossa Gawler Light & Adelaide Plains and Country Arts SA. She is also an Associate artist with the Australian Music Centre.


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