AUSTRALIAN expats in the UK are set to be treated to a truly unique musical experience this October, as London’s all-Australian chamber orchestra, Ruthless Jabiru, perform a special tribute concert at Islington’s famous Union Chapel.
Accompanied by guest artist Lara St John, Ruthless Jabiru will highlight in performance the complex story of Maralinga in remote South Australia. The area was used as a site for undercover British nuclear testing in the 1950s and 60s, leaving thousands of Indigenous people and British and Australian servicemen affected, and the site destitute with radioactive waste.
At the heart of the musical programme is work for violin and string orchestra called Maralinga by Australian composer Matthew Hindson.
“I wanted to devise a programme connected with the Australian landscape, to complement the Australia exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts,” said conductor Kelly Lovelady, the orchestra’s founding Artistic Director.
“Maralinga was inspired by a stretch of desert where one political decision has had tragic repercussions for health, community, and the environment. I’ve chosen a programme to evoke the loss and the chemical strangeness which has become a part of that landscape.”
Maralinga scholar Dr. Liz Tynan described a complex tragedy of secrets, spies, and international relations.
“At Maralinga, part of our territory became the most highly contaminated land in the world. It’s time for Maralinga to become part of our national conversation, and the arts is a great medium to do this.”
Ruthless Jabiru was established in 2011 by Lovelady to showcase the best of Australia’s expatriate musical talent and is comprised of professional Australian musicians based in the UK.
The orchestra will be joined in this tribute concert by Canadian violinist Lara St John, for whom Hindson wrote the solo violin part of Maralinga. St. John has been described as “something of a phenomenon” by The Strad and a “high-powered soloist” by The New York Times.
The performance will also include UK premieres of works by Australian composer Paul Stanhope and Dublin-based Linda Buckley, as well as cornerstones of the string orchestra repertoire by Arvo PÃ¤rt and Samuel Barber.
Maralinga Lament is on at Union Chapel on Monday 14 October at 7.30pm. Tickets are £16 in advance, available from unionchapel.org.uk, or £18 at the door. For more information on Ruthless Jabiru see ruthlessjabiru.com.
(Maralinga Lament artwork by Brisbane artist Sarah Hickey)