Queensland audiences will experience extraordinary choral singing from the outback this December, as the Central Australian Aboriginal Women’s Choir kicks off its national tour at Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC).
In their QPAC debut, the choir will fill the Concert Hall with a musical confluence of Baroque and Romantic era choral arrangements and centuries-old sacred hymns, carried through time in ancient Aboriginal languages for one performance only on Sunday, 11 December 2022.
Singing in English alongside Western Arrarnta and Pitjantjatjara – two living languages of the Northern Territory and South Australia – and led by Choir Master Morris Stuart AM, this extraordinary vocal ensemble first came to popular attention following ABC TV’s ‘Australian Story’, and the feature documentary, ‘The Song Keepers’.
Their story is a testament to the resilience of Indigenous women in the Central Desert as they preserve and strengthen their identity, languages and culture through song.
The Central Australian Aboriginal Women’s Choir contains 25 core members. The women (and four men) come from seven remote communities within a thousand-kilometre radius throughout central Australia including Hermannsburg, Areyonga, Titjikala, Mutitjulu, Docker River, and Alice Springs. The choir was formed as an amalgamation of various individual community choirs, including the renowned choirs from Ntaria (Hermannsburg), Areyonga and Ernabella.
The choir’s charismatic Artistic Director and Conductor, Morris Stuart, is responsible for bringing Central Australia’s sacred sounds to the world and Stuart shared their excitement.
“I am deeply proud of this choir. When I started out little did I know that my work and this choir would become the stuff of legend in Central Australia and the subject of both a documentary and an ABC TV episode of ‘Australian Story’,” said Stuart.
“There is something about music, especially singing, choral singing, which is powerful, transformative, therapeutic, and that brings people together. The choir’s greatest achievement so far has been a 12,000 km trip to Germany to share some of the 53 hymns that German missionaries translated into local languages in the 19th century. The songs had all but vanished from use in Germany but had been preserved in the Central Australian desert for 140 years.”
“The preserved German hymns are like an ‘outback secret’,” he adds.
Producer Andrew Kay AM also shared their excitement.
“It is always a privilege to collaborate with the Central Australian Aboriginal Women’s Choir and with Morris Stuart, who I have known for many years now through our collaborations and love of supporting our Indigenous communities,” said Kay.
“It is a strong and special association, and it is most exciting to be bringing the choir back to present four performances within three states.”
The Central Australian Aboriginal Women’s Choir is proudly featured in the ABC’s current brand campaign for the celebration of the broadcaster’s 90th year. Led by renowned Choir Director, Morris Stuart, ninety choir singers including members of the Central Australian Aboriginal Women’s Choir perform on Arrernte Country singing a stirring rendition of the song “I am Australian” in Pitjantjatjara language.
Morris Stuart was honoured with an AM in the Australia Day Honours List 2022. Born in Guyana, Morris received the AM (Member of the Order of Australia) for significant service to the Indigenous community and to choral music. It is important to note that The United Nations General Assembly has declared the period between 2022 and 2032 as the International Decade of Indigenous Languages to draw attention to the critical status of many Indigenous languages across the world and encourage action for their preservation, revitalization and promotion.
The Central Australian Aboriginal Women’s Choir perform on Sunday, 11 December 2022, 7:30 PM, at QPAC’s Concert Hall. Tickets are on sale now and from $95.00.
For more information about this significant event, please visit QPAC’s website.
Image by Barbara Stuart.