Experience a new concept in concert programming: We link great works for choir by year with voyages in search of Terra Australis, the fabled Great Southern Land. Don’t miss this voyage of musical discovery! Scroll down for more program detail.

FREE CONCERT in SYDNEY  Sunday 25 August at 3.30pm Great Hall, University of Sydney

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The concert is preceded by a free carillon recital in the quadrangle at 2.00 pm, followed by an optional free tour of the carillon. (Meet under the clock tower after the carillon recital).

Our program begins with the words of Indigenous poet, Bill Neidjie, set to music by Australian composer, Tom Henry. Bill Neidjie, elder of the Gagudju clan of North Western Australia –negotiator, peace-maker, last surviving speaker of the Gagudju language – was keen to ensure that the rich history of his people would not be forgotten. He broke taboos by publishing some of their traditional stories or Dreaming in two volumes of poetry. The poems speak of a land of the imagination, timeless place where the spiritual world meets the physical. Some would say that all art comes from such a place:

This earth I never damage.
I look after.
This ground and this earth,
like brother and mother.
Earth …

The legend of Terra australis incognita (unknown Southern land) was mentioned by Aristotle, who speculated that a large landmass  in the Southern hemisphere might ‘balance’ the corresponding known landmasses in the Northern hemisphere. For centuries, this was nothing more than a philosophical speculation. Then, from the 16th century, as explorers navigated the globe, the Australian continent gradually assumed its shape on the world map.

Matthew Flinders 1814 Chart of Terra Australis

Flemish explorer Dirk den Hartog was the first European to land on Australia’s western coast in 1619. In the same year, Flemish composer Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck wrote the bouyant eight-part Hodie Christus natus est for the Christmas season.

The remains of explorer, Matthew Flinders were discovered in January this year during an archeological dig under London’s Euston Station. Flinders died at the age of 40, the day after his book, A Voyage to Terra Australis was published in 1814. In the same year, Beethoven published his Abschiedsgesang (Farewell Song). With this song, the ACC remembers Matthew Flinders, farewelled in the same year at St James’ Church graveyard, now the site of Euston Station.

Oronce Fine 1531 World map showing Terra Australis

French cartographer, Oronce Finé demonstrated uncanny insight when in 1531, before any European had set foot on Terra Australis, he published an atlas in which he described the Indigenous inhabitants as follows:

They “lead good honest lives and are not cannibals … they have no letters, nor do they have kings, but they venerate their elders and offer them obedience”.

Around the same time, the Portuguese music theorist and composer, Vicente Lusitano wrote an astounding example of chromatic polyphony, entitled Heu Me Domine (Alas Lord). When his work was published in Venice in 1561, Lusitano, who was of African heritage, became the first published black composer.

Also on the program are works by Josquin des Prez, JS Bach and Debussy, each paired with a voyage or expedition of discovery.

This program is uniquely Australian and would not be complete without the contribution of Australian poets and composers.

Captain James Cook, oil on canvas by Nathaniel Dance (c.1837), Greenwich Hospital Collection

On 3 June 1769, Captain James Cook trialled new equipment, tracking the transit of Venus from the island of Tahiti. Immediately afterwards, Cook broke the seal on an envelope bearing the inscription Secret Instructions to Captain Cook from the Lord High Admiral of Great Britain. In it he was instructed to search for Terra Australis. To commemorate the 250th anniversary of Cook’s opening of the secret instructions in 2019, the ACC has commissioned Australian poet Mark Tredinnik and Australian composer, Alan Holley to write a new work, forming the centrepiece of the Terra Australis program. See the poem by Mark Tredinnick and notes by the poet and the composer.


Explorers, Talbot and Frank Hann

Explorers, Talbot and Frank Hann

With the enormous contribution of Indigenous people in Australia’s exploration largely overlooked until at least the middle of the twentieth century, the ACC in the extensive program notes provided, shines a spotlight on the important role of Indigenous people in journeys charting the Australian continent.



SYDNEY  Sunday 25 August at 3.30pm Great Hall, University of Sydney

European Concerts
Click here to see all 14 European performances, June 30 to July 21

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© Australian Chamber Choir 2019

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At each point on this voyage of discovery, we present you with a great choral work that is contemporary with a significant moment in the mapping of the Australian continent.

16 June to 25 August Melbourne Sydney London Paris Copenhagen Berlin Bonn and more