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Work

I am Martuwarra : for multiple treble choirs, SATB choir, piano and three percussionists

by Steve Hawke and Paul Stanhope (2019)

Work Overview

Martuwarra is the Bunuba language word for the Fitzroy River, the magnificent body of water which carves its way through plains and gorges of the spectacular Kimberley landscape. It is also the lifeblood of the Aboriginal nations who surround it: the Kija, Bunuba and Nyikina people.

The poem by Steve Hawke - who is the librettist also for Jandamarra: Sing for the Country (Ngalanybarra Muwai.u) - was commissioned especially for this composition. This beautiful text incorporates imagery of the River and the three nations as it winds its journey out to sea. Words from Kija, Bunuba and Nyikina are woven through the poem which add to its richness and beauty.

The music divides up the large choral forces into different groups, and these may be read as different aspects of the landscape and the characters mentioned in the poetry. The strophic form of the text with verses and an exultant refrain is reflected in the music. Each of the verses represents Kija, Bunuba and Nyikina perspectives, while the refrain is written from the point of view of the River. As the river seems to acquire more potency on its journey, the later musical refrains are correspondingly written for larger forces. A chorus to the river, sung from the perspective of all the Martuwarra peoples, is sung simultatneously with the final refrain in a joyous, celebratory outburst.

Work Details

Year: 2019

Instrumentation: Junior treble choir (SA), Senior treble choirs (SSAA), SATB choirs (SSAATB), piano, percussion (3 players).

Duration: 9 min.

Difficulty: Medium — Easy, medium and more advanced level choral writing; professional pianist and percussionists

Commission note: Commissioned by Gondwana Choirs.. Commissioned for the Gondwana World Choral Festival, 2019

First performance: by Gondwana Choirs, Luminescence Chamber Singers, Valla Voices, Hunter Singers, Resonance (vocal ensemble) at Gondwana World Choral Festival: Sounds of Australia (Sydney Opera House, Concert Hall) on 15 Jul 2019

This work is related to Jandamarra: Sing for the Country. The same composer/librettist team for both of these pieces which explore themes of language and culture from the Kimberley in Western Australia.

Performances of this work

15 Jul 2019: at Gondwana World Choral Festival: Sounds of Australia (Sydney Opera House, Concert Hall). Featuring Gondwana Choirs, Luminescence Chamber Singers, Valla Voices, Hunter Singers, Resonance (vocal ensemble).

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