Gum Tree Country, composed in 2003, was commissioned for performance by Waratah Girls Choir, Newcastle, Australia, directed by Wynette Horne.
Scored for a cappella SSAA choir and a quartet of chorister soloists (SSAA), Gum Tree Country reflects on the impact and awe-inspiring nature of the Australian bush-fires. A variety of writings by Australian authors were consulted when compiling the text of the work, such as poetry of Judith Wright and Frieda Hughes, excerpts from Douglas Stewart’s play “Ned Kelly”, Ashley Hay’s novel “Gum: The Story of Eucalypts and Their Champions”, and words and images used in the media at the time of the 2001-2002 New South Wales fires.
The setting of the text inspired the use of a number of musical ideas, such as the anxious chanting of words within the first section, the contrasting of the chorister quartet with the full choir, homophonic choral writing suggestive of the fire’s impact, biting rhythms set to text concerning bull-dozers, chainsaws, firefighters and helitankers, and the use of a broader, more majestic music for the setting of Douglas Stewart’s text “It’s the gum-trees’ country”, which appears towards the conclusion of the work.
I warmly thank the Waratah Girls Choir and director, Wynette Horne, for commissioning the work and gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Australia Council.
JULY 2018 – Japan Tour
Gum Tree Country (for SSAA choir and quartet of chorister soloists)
Performers: Waratah Girls Choir, directed by Lindy Connett.
Venue: International Tour – Japan.