On Sutherland’s Grave (1991) received the ‘Highly Commended’ award in the 1991 2MBS-FM Young Composers’ Competition and received its first performance by The Song Company, directed by Roland Peelman, in a live broadcast from 2MBS-FM (Sydney) Studio C, in Oz Music Week 1992.
The work subsequently received numerous performances by various choirs including Cantus & Brisbane Chamber Choir (directed by Graeme Morton), The Contemporary Singers (directed by Antony Walker and Elliott Gyger), the Ronald Dowd National School for Singers’ Contemporary Choral Group (directed by William Moxey) and the Queensland University Musical Society (directed by Natasha Kalous).
The work has featured in the national and international tour repertoires of The Australian Voices (directed by Graeme Morton) and the Sydney Conservatorium Chorale (directed by Neil McEwan). In 1996, it was performed at the 4th World Symposium on Choral Music by the Sydney Philharmonia Motet Choir (conducted by Antony Walker).
In 2002, under the direction of Mats Nilsson, the Sydney Philharmonia Motet Choir presented the work at a concert entitled “A cappella OZ” at Kings College Chapel, Cambridge, UK, during the Cambridge Summer Music Festival, Cambridge, UK.
On Sutherland’s Grave draws upon three distinct texts:
• Sutherland’s Grave
from Selected Poems of Henry Kendall Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1927.
• Journey to Birdsville Nov. 1966
from The Log and Field Book of Sir Russell Drysdale [ML MSS 4191/6 Item 21]
• Requiem aeternam from Missa pro defunctis
In composing the work, each of the three texts suggested its own unique musical treatment. Of particular significance to the overall work was the text of Henry Kendall’s poem of 1860, which describes the wailful sea lamenting that Forby Sutherland, one of Captain James Cook’s sailors, had been buried ashore shortly after the Endeavour anchored in Botany Bay in 1770.
Excerpts from Missa pro defunctis are used – at times, fleetingly- to complement the nature of the work, while at other times, I have introduced, by means of narration, whispering and humming, some extracts from ‘Journey to Birdsville Nov. 1966’, from The Log and Field Book of Sir Russell Drysdale, which describe the artist’s observations of the outback and his thoughts upon visiting the ‘Dig Tree’ at Camp 65 of Burke’s expedition.