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Work

Bent Heart (unspecified voice with chamber ensemble)

by Andrea Keller (2018)

Audio Sample

Performance by Australian Art Orchestra from the CD Sometimes Home Can Grow Stranger Than Space

Sometimes Home Can Grow Stranger Than Space

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Work Overview

Bent Heart reflects four stories of women whose lives were inexorably impacted by World War I, either through their service, or the service of those they loved.

I - Lonely Vigil

For Olive Pink - a woman ahead of her time, she moved to Alice Springs and was an advocate for the environment and the rights of Aboriginal people. Olive lost her love in the Great War and never re-partnered. Every ANZAC Day long before the service commenced, she placed a bunch of native flowers at the foot of the town's war memorial. She lived to be 91.

Text/Lyric: "Bearing grief alone, needing no words, nursed in reverent silence."

II - Treasured Angels

For Mary Chomley - who established the Red Cross POW department. She referred to the POW's as her "big family of boys", and packed and delivered parcels and letters to them, creating a lifeline to Australia. The soldiers claimed she kept them alive, "we will treasure you forever in our memories". Credit for the POW department was given to a man.

Text/Lyric: "Angels. Treasured Angels. In our memories for ever."

III - Broken Doll

For Margaret Broadhurst & Rachel Pratt - two vastly different stories connected, however, through shared experiences of profound loss, fear and loneliness.

Margaret Broadhurst was abandoned by her fiancé who fell in love with a British nurse during his time wounded in the war. In her words, he had left her "a broken doll." At that time, female fulfilment was only seen as being possible through becoming wives and mothers. The war had created a surplus of women due to a lost generation of men; the women that never married because of the war were described as 'imaginary widows'. Margaret sued her ex-fiancé upon his return, and won.

Rachel Pratt was a nurse. "She wrote hundreds of letters home to Britain, New Zealand and Australia, assuring grieving mothers that the sons they loved had not died alone, had not died in pain, had died bravely." Severely wounded herself in a bombing attack, she continued to nurse her patients until she collapsed. She was awarded the Military Medal 'for bravery under fire' (the first Australian woman to receive the Military Medal, and one of the few nurses to be decorated), but enjoyed little of the limelight. She never recovered from her injuries and upon her return developed what the medical authorities called 'war neurosis'. Admitted to hospital for the mentally ill in 1938, she died there in 1954, never having returned to civilian life. Every ANZAC day she is celebrated as a hero, but only half her story is told.

Text/Lyric: "Depressed and melancholic... Worried the whole of her waking hours... Unable to face anything... Lost all self-confidence... Has no companionship... No practical purpose in life... suicidal... Prospects of ultimate recovery must now be regarded as improbable". (Quotes from doctors' assessments of Rachel Pratt).

IV - Cry Heart But Never Break

Epilogue - a prayer for all.

Text: "Cry heart, but never break. Let your tears of grief and sadness help begin new life."

Text taken from Cry, Heart, But Never Break by Glenn Ringtved, illus. by Charlotte Pardi, and translated by Robert Moulthrop. Used with permission from Enchanted Lion Books.

— Andrea Keller

Work Details

Year: 2018

Duration: 19 min.

Contents note: I. Lonely Vigil -- II. Treasured Angels -- III. Broken Doll -- IV. Cry Heart But Never Break.

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