Terra Australis Programm für Smartphone, June 20, 2019

Terra Australis – Land of the Imagination, June 3, 2019



The Australian Chamber Choir is exploring a new concept in its latest concert, which it is performing in Australia and around Europe.

by Jo Litson on May 28, 2019

The Australian Chamber Choir invites audiences in Australia and Europe to journey through time in a concert that marries choral works with voyages in search of Terra Australis, the fabled Great Southern Land, linking music and events year by year. The program features music by European composers from 1504 to 1937, with contributions from Australian poets and composers. The program begins and ends with the words of Indigenous poet Bill Neidjie, set to music by Australian composer Tom Henry. The ACC has also commissioned a new work by Australian composer Alan Holley and Australian poet Mark Tredinnick called Time Passages to mark the 250th anniversary of  Captain Cook’s opening of the secret instructions to search for Terra Australis on June 3, 1769. Douglas Lawrence, the Director of the ACC, and Elizabeth Anderson, the Choir’s Manager (and his wife), spoke to Limelight about the concert.
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Singers from the Australian Chamber Choir. Photograph © Emma Phillips

Terra Australis – Land of the Imagination is a very ambitious project. I believe the idea came about when St Martin in the Fields in London asked you to suggest a program for a concert there. Whose idea was it?

DL: Elizabeth asked me what pieces I would like the choir to perform on this year’s European tour. I wanted to include (as always) a Bach motet, Messiaen’s O Sacrum Convivium, and Tom Henry’s extraordinary Kakadu Man, which had so deeply moved European audiences on our 2015 tour. I also said, and this is how we tend to work together, “It would be good if it had something to do with the imagination”. From this point the stroke of –  I will say it – genius came from Elizabeth.

EA: The application to perform in the evening concert series at St Martin in the Fields is very competitive, and I felt that to be considered seriously we needed a quintessentially Australian program. For a few years I had been toying with the idea of a program that linked historical events by year with pieces of music. Here was my opportunity to give it a try. In the knowledge that Aristotle had ‘imagined’ a Great Southern Land, I alighted upon the “history of Terra Australis” as my timeline.
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How did you decide which historical events you would include? Did you seek the help of a historian?

EA: I found some great internet resources that helped me create a timeline for the mapping of the Australian continent.

How difficult was it to then find the right piece of music to match each event?

EA: When I started, I wasn’t sure if it would work. I searched by date to match historical events with the motets of Bach and with the Messiaen piece that Douglas had chosen. The story of Terra Australis concludes with the mapping of the coastline of Antarctica, beginning with the sighting of that coastline by Russian and British expeditions in 1820. At this point, Aristotle’s theory that there must be an equally large continental landmass in the Southern hemisphere to ‘balance’ the area of the Asian/European continent was finally debunked. I was intrigued to discover that Bach’s motet Lobet den Herren was first published in 1820, making that work part of a fitting conclusion to the program.

Did you end up spending a lot of time choosing between different musical options to find the right mix for the program?

EA: Yes, of course. But I’m a choral music tragic, so listening to large quantities of known and unknown repertoire is certainly not an onerous task. There is a wealth of choral repertoire, often well documented by year, going right back to the beginning of the 16th century. It would be much more difficult to design a program such as this using orchestral music, since the orchestra as we know it did not come into being until the 18th century.
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How important was it to you to include an Indigenous frame for the concert?

EA: The Indigenous story is always there and you can’t possibly ignore it. All the inland expeditions I read about included Indigenous people, who saved the lives of the European explorers on many occasions. When I learned of these expeditions in primary school, Indigenous participants were never mentioned, and even as a child I had wondered why European explorers did not seek their assistance. What is now Australia has been in the care of and at the heart of the life of many nations of Indigenous people for thousands of years, far longer than the existence of European culture. Long before the arrival of Europeans, the land was already known and mapped through songlines.

Were the pieces you are performing by Tom Henry (using Bill Neidjie’s words) all commissioned by the ACC?

DL: Yes. Tom Henry sat in our lounge room and talked about how impressed he was by the life of Bill ‘Kakadu Man’ Neidjie, elder of the Gagudju Clan and the last surviving speaker of the Gagudju language. Neidjie broke with tradition to share his Dreamtime stories with all of us. Tom handed me one of Neidjie’s collections of poems and in about one minute I teared up. It hit me like an express train. This was real, sad, moving, powerful, and I immediately asked Tom to compose using these powerful words. The result is out there now; a tremendously important new Australian composition. It is inspired and must surely lead to those hearing it to think afresh about our First Nations, their ancient history and what western civilisation has done to that ancient and irreplaceable culture.
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Can you tell us about the new work by Mark Tredinnick and Alan Holley?

EA: I felt very uncomfortable about including Cook’s 1770 landing at Botany Bay in our program. I discussed this with Alan Holley. Alan and I chose to deal with it in different ways: I chose to focus on the date of Cook’s opening of the contract for the voyage in search of Terra Australis. This took place exactly 250 years ago, on June  3, 1769, in Tahiti. Cook had been sent there to observe the transit of Venus. Following instructions from the British Admiralty, immediately after recording the transit, he was to break the seal on an envelope marked “Secret Instructions”. On this day 250 years ago, he read that if he met inhabitants on the new continent, he should “endeavour by all proper means to cultivate a Friendship and Alliance with them … inviting them to Traffick, and Shewing them every kind of Civility and Regard; taking Care however not to suffer yourself to be surprized by them, but to be always upon your guard against any Accidents”.

Alan Holley invited poet, Mark Tredinnick to write for us and they decided to deal with the conflicting truths of Cook’s voyage in a direct way, producing a new work, entitled Time Passages. Alan Holley writes: “For some people this journey of Cook was of immense importance, with the subsequent settling of British peoples and their complete takeover of ‘the southern continent’ creating untold wealth for the British Empire. For others it led to an invasion of a land that had been inhabited for over 50,000 years by people of many Indigenous nations. Present-day Australia now has to straddle these two truths.”

Mark Tredinnick writes: “I came to think of that theme, the beaching of time on eternity’s shore as an ecotone where two orders of existence, two aspects of every life – “one like an ocean; the other, a shore” – crash and coalesce but never cohere. That littoral zone is what Time Passages is; what it tries to sing is what eternity will not stop saying to time. Moments last, but years do not. This is one thing the dreaming and poetry and music understand and want us to know – before time runs out.”
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The concert was obviously already planned before the discovery of Matthew Flinders’ remains in January in Euston Station. Did you expand the program as a result, or not?

EA: I was fascinated by Matthew Flinders’ voyages. The map that he created between 1801 and 1803 while circumnavigating Australia was almost perfect. Not only did he create the first complete map of our coastline, but he was also responsible for naming our continent Australia. On the 1801 voyage, he was accompanied by Indigenous man, Bungaree, without whose help he would probably have been killed by local Indigenous people defending their lands. Flinders died of a urinary tract infection in 1814, just one day after his book, A Voyage to Terra Australis, was published. And in the same year, Beethoven published a charming song for men’s voices entitled Farewell Song. It could have been written expressly for Flinders, although the two probably knew nothing of each other. Flinders was buried in St James’ Church graveyard, which in the 1840s was built over by the expanding Euston Station. Flinders’ headstone was removed and his grave was lost until it was identified in excavations in January this year.

Will you be using any multimedia imagery with the concert? Or explaining the background to the concept and the historical events covered in the program?

DL: We always provide extensive program notes for our concerts. We post these on our website ahead of each program, sending a link to all those who have bought tickets and offering all attendees a hard copy free of charge. In this case, Elizabeth’s notes are weighted more towards explanations of the historical events than towards the music performed.

EA: This is where we believe that we are breaking new ground. Through an appreciation of the historical events contemporary with each piece of music, the audience is invited to listen in a new way. I think that the stories of voyages and explorations really spark the imagination for an enhanced listening experience.

Watch this video for an example of what Dutchmen Frederik de Houtman and Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck were doing in 1619
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The Australian Chamber Choir performs Terra Australis – Land of the Imagination in Melbourne on June 16 before touring to Europe, then returns to perform in Macedon on August 10, Geelong on August 11 and Sydney on August 15

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Limelight Magazine, May 28, 2019

Under the … expert guidance of Director … Douglas Lawrence  the Australian Chamber Choir have once again … given us an unforgettable concert. … Read more

Melbourne Observer, May 8, 2019

It is hard to fully describe the power and majesty and innovation that pours forth from this work and one must experience it in a concert situation to be fully immersed in its perfection … The ACC under Douglas Lawrence were sensational. … Read more

ClassikON, May 3, 2019

Weekend Notes, May 2, 2019

Playing to a packed house … the sublime voices of the ACC were … spine tingling, brilliant” … Read more

Weekend Notes, May 2, 2019

St John Passion, April 10, 2019

…perfectly realised vocal textures and phrasing remained a feature throughout. … Read more

The Courier, Ballarat, February 25, 2019

ACC8 Inaugural Concert, February 22, 2019

This ensemble sings with impressive clarity and a bright, crisp tone, delivering a largely flawless blend throughout, even while navigating passages of complex polyphony.

… Read more

The Age, December 9, 2018

We have come to expect nothing short of perfection from Douglas Lawrence and the Australian Chamber Choir. The ACC today once again showed that great repertoire can be performed magnificently by this ensemble. … Read more

Classic Melbourne, December 6, 2018

It is no wonder that this was a sold out event.

Listening to the undulating tones echoing all around us, John Keats’ quote on poetry immediately came to mind:

“The point of diving into a lake is not immediately to swim to the shore, but to be in the lake, to luxuriate in the sensation of water. You do not work the lake out, it is an experience beyond thought. Poetry soothes and emboldens the soul to accept the mystery.”

Being able to luxuriate in the sensation of the music in such a beautiful and private space was an absolute treat. It is no wonder that this was a sold out event.

… Read more

Theatre Now, November 27, 2018

With its sublime sound, informed performance and exemplary ensemble skills … this was a splendid performance by the Australian Chamber Choir. … Read more

SoundsLike Sydney, November 26, 2018

A Baroque Christmas Program Notes, November 17, 2018

ClassikON, September 25, 2018

The Australian Chamber Choir sings complex music fearlessly and it thrills … Read more

ClassikON, September 25, 2018

one of the finest concerts in Sydney this year … … Read more

ClassikON, September 25, 2018

SoundsLikeSydney Sept 2018, September 18, 2018

The Australian Chamber Choir with its mastery of numerous styles and the languages … combined with exemplary vocal technique and ensemble skills, creates a glorious sound. … Read more

SoundsLike Sydney Sept. 2018, September 18, 2018

Mozart Requiem, August 17, 2018

Lawrence spoke of Barber’s work as “a pinnacle in the choral repertoire”, and Twelfth Night and Agnus Dei showed the ACC as a glorious group who never fail in technique, timbre or connection with the audience. The Agnus Dei floated to the heavens with the gentlest pulse, more splendid crescendos and intimate dynamics. The final cadence was a breathtaking pianissimo, causing my companion to say, “That was amazing”.  There were tears.

… Read more

Classic Melbourne, July 14, 2018

Classic Melbourne, July 5, 2018

This extraordinary concert by the Australian Chamber Choir, directed by Douglas Lawrence, was breathtakingly moving. An inspired selection of pieces was programmed in a masterly way which would ensure the audience could only last the emotional distance with ample tissues to comfort the widespread flow of tears.

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Classic Melbourne, July 5, 2018

True Romantics, June 16, 2018

Essence of the Renaissance, May 3, 2018

… the audience knew they were in for a treat. The magnificent voices soared upwards filling the church, surrounding the audience with pure sweet sound. This impact is magical and leaves a lasting impression. … Read more

Melbourne Observer Review by Jill Page, May 2, 2018

Theatre Press

Theatre Press, April 26, 2018

… sung exquisitely … this is a choir that Australia can be proud of.


Stage Whispers, April 25, 2018

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Stage Whispers, April 25, 2018

With a multitude of tours through Europe, the ACC was recognised in 2015 as an honorary life member of Denmark’s oldest classical music festival, the Sorø International Music Festival, cementing its place amongst the classical music elite … Read more

Theatre Press, April 23, 2018

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Cut Common Mag, April 18, 2018

the soloists – Elspeth Bawden, Elizabeth Anderson, Timothy Reynolds and Oliver Mann – ably demonstrated a rich and colourful delivery of the intertwining texts, and the ACC gave us the full range of dynamic contrasts with unified control and sensitivity. The Offertorium was joyful, the Sanctus – Benedictus expressed a deeper spirituality with the choral basses shining with their “Osanna in Excelsis”, and Lawrence was in command of seamless tempo changes. … Read more

Classic Melbourne, April 12, 2018

Where the text spoke of anguish, pleading and torment, the ACC lifted in united energy and awe through the glorious triads and suspensions. Impeccable pitch and articulation of the text are a feature of the ACC’s performances, and throughout, the tempered contrasts of dynamics in response to the text was scholarly and splendid. It is a joy to hear the Stabat Mater – and with the grand final cadence “While my body here decays, May my soul your goodness praise, Safe in heaven eternally,” the ensemble affirmed a celestial height.

… Read more

Classic Melbourne, April 12, 2018

Classic Melbourne

Classic Melbourne, April 12, 2018

Mozart Requiem, March 17, 2018

For the Australian Chamber Choir, … an acknowledgement of a creative force that transcends faith and soars … with a devotion and assurance that is inspirational and affirming. … Read more

Melbourne Observer, November 23, 2017

Venice Program Notes, November 7, 2017

Furchte dich nicht … by Bach … showed them worthy to be considered as world class. … Read more

ClassikON, August 29, 2017

a dramatic concert which was both tremendously well-conceived and received

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Australian Arts Review, August 29, 2017

the choir’s performance is magical, confident, dancing as one entity. … Read more

Weekend Notes, August 29, 2017

The Land

The Land, Bowral, August 23, 2017

I enjoyed your concerts so much … It’s very rare in our country to listen to choirs with this level of singing.

Endorsement: Klaus Kuchling, Cathedral Organist, Klagenfurt, Austria, August 2, 2017

The concert was absolutely top class. It was an unforgettable experience for all those who attended. Douglas Lawrence, as conductor, is able to draw the absolute best out of his singers. I drove home feeling elated.

Endorsement: Markus Karas, Cantor/Director of Music – Diaconate of Bonn, Germany, July 28, 2017

Echo, Darmstadt

Echo, Darmstadt, July 22, 2017

The voices of the 19 young singers are trained at the highest level.  A lightning-crisp intonation rings through a naturally blended sound. The unaccompanied works of the evening begun in perfect tune without any preparatory humming, as the choir wended its way with the greatest security through music of many periods and styles. … Read more

Echo, Darmstadt, July 20, 2017

By the Waters of Babylon, June 9, 2017


The Age Spectrum, May 31, 2017

The Coronation Gloria delivered a triumphal entry to the program with bold brass accompaniment and the choir in full and confident voice. The spine tingles started here.

… Read more

Classic Melbourne, April 6, 2017

Classic Melbourne Review

Classic Melbourne, April 6, 2017

A London Coronation, April 4, 2017

The Age, Spectrum

The Age, Spectrum, back page, March 25, 2017

Special Radio Russia

Special Radio Russia, March 1, 2017

Must see shows

Castlemaine Mail, February 10, 2017

2017 International Season

2017 International Season, January 1, 2017

Bach Magnificat Program, October 1, 2016

they created a sound that was as pure as crystal, beautifully blended, clearly articulated and unanimous in execution of phrasing and dynamics.


… Read more

Sounds Like Sydney, August 23, 2016

Bach in the Castle of Heaven, August 16, 2016


Sydney Morning Herald, July 28, 2016

Bach in the Castle of Heaven, June 6, 2016

Douglas Lawrence and Elizabeth Anderson do a phenomenal job running the wonderful enterprise that is the Australian Chamber Choir. It is truly inspirational!

Dr David Irving FAHA, Senior Lecturer, Conservatorium of Music, University of Melbourne, April 14, 2016

unerring vibrance and clarity of vocal production …
The Australian Chamber Choir, now well established, is one of Australia’s most significant musical ensembles, for the quality of performance, the breadth of its repertoire, its commissioning of new Australian works, and its international reputation. It deserves to be well supported into the future for the significant role it plays in our national cultural life. … Read more

Tom Healey, Acting Director of Music, The Choir of Trinity College, University of Melbourne, April 12, 2016

CutCommon Bach Mass in B Minor review

CutCommon, April 9, 2016

The Australian Chamber Choir and Melbourne Baroque Orchestra treated a full house at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church to a remarkably assured performance of Bach’s Mass in B minor …  The ACC has made it a trademark to use its choristers as soloists, and this choice is justified given the depth of talent in its ranks.  … The choir and orchestra revelled in the joyous chorus movements, conveying both an understanding and appreciation of the music. … Read more

CutCommonMag.com, April 7, 2016

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The Age, March 11, 2016

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Gallery Magazine, December 7, 2015

2016 Brochure

2016 Season Brochure, November 7, 2015

Melbourne Observer

Melbourne Observer, November 4, 2015

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Chapel Royal, November 1, 2015

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, October 30, 2015

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The Age, October 30, 2015

Chapel Royal, October 25, 2015

The many listeners … were totally captivated by the marvellous sounds conjured by the Australian Chamber Choir … At the end there were several minutes of standing ovation.
… Read more

Schwäbische Zeitung, July 17, 2015


Schwäbische Zeitung, July 17, 2015

Magnificent! Transporting! Phenomenal! … Read more

Schwäbische Zeitung, July 17, 2015

delivered with absolute stylistic perfection

… Read more

Dagbladet, Ringsted, July 8, 2015

Berlingske Tidende Copenhagen review

Dagbladet, Ringsted, Denmark, July 8, 2015


… Read more

Dagbladet, Ringsted, Denmark, July 8, 2015

The Australian Chamber Choir captivated the audience with their amazing expression, … rendered the harmony with orchestral perfection.

… Read more

Echo, Darmstadt, July 4, 2015

in music that seems to penetrate into visionary dreamscapes … The choristers consistently impressed with their exploration of sonority and atmospheric depth

… Read more

Echo, Darmstadt, July 4, 2015

The … singers … moved with ease between rich balmy textures and the most stunning piano sound. … in the face of … harmonic audacity, the intonation always rang pure.

… Read more

Echo, Darmstadt, July 4, 2015

Echo Darmstadt

Echo, Darmstadt, July 4, 2015

European Concert Tour 2015 Program 1, June 23, 2015

Limelight Magazine

Limelight Magazine, June 8, 2015

Kakadu Man Program Notes, June 6, 2015

The Guardian June 2015

The Guardian, June 5, 2015

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The Age, June 1, 2015

Soul of Anzac Review

Sydney Morning Herald: Review, March 23, 2015

This was the choir at its best – secure of entry, pure of intonation, its long phrases firmly moving forward and with excellent solo offerings in both the Sanctus and Agnus Dei.

… Read more

Soul of Anzac: Review, March 22, 2015

The Age Arts Spotlight

The Age Arts Spotlight, March 13, 2015

Soul of Anzac, March 7, 2015

The Age Arts Spotlight

The Age, March 3, 2015

The Age display ad

The Age display advertisement, February 22, 2015

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Anzak Ruhu (Soul of Anzac), February 22, 2015

Soul of Anzac flyer

Soul of Anzac flyer, February 4, 2015

eGlobe Travel Feature

Global Travel Media, February 2, 2015

2015 International Season Brochure

2015 International Season Brochure, November 24, 2014

Limelight Magazine

Limelight Magazine, November 13, 2014

2015 International Season Flyer

2015 International Season Flyer, November 13, 2014

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