My setting of Pat Edwards’ poem ‘If Christ had been born in another time…’ was commissioned by Oriana Chorale, Canberra, ACT, Australia, for premiere performance at the National Museum of Australia, on Sunday 21 December, 2008.
Opening with the distinctive calls of Laughing Kookaburras, the scene is set for a new, Australian take on the age-old story of the Nativity. Through a series of questions posed, the poet depicts Mary and Joseph travelling through the Australian outback. “Would there have been no room in the pub?” “Would they have been turned away while drovers and stockmen jostled the bar toasting the end of the day?” Would the Wise Men have brought gifts of “perfume and oil from the eucalypt tree” or “gold from a river’s bed?”
Inspired by Edwards’ strong imagery and fired up by the excitement and sense of celebration which is inherent in the story of the Nativity, I arrived at musical ideas which exhibit an energy and a rhythmic drive that propels the music to an uplifting conclusion, whereupon the choir sings, once more, the poem’s opening verse:
If Christ had been born in another time
in a town of a different name,
If Christ had been born under southern skies
would the story have been the same?
Having set the scene at the commencement of the work, the Laughing Kookaburras return to have the last word.
*Pat Edwards, “Joy in the Sun: Christmas under the southern cross”, Gosford NSW, Ashton Scholastic, 1984. Grateful acknowledgement is made of Ashton Scholastic for granting permission to set this text.