This was our first CD and represents four years of
gathering remarkable environmental songs from Australia and overseas,
arranging them for unaccompanied voices, and even green-penning a few
of our own.
Our most prolific composer, and probably the most
arrested member of the group, is Paul Spencer. His Organism Called Earth is
a sonic tapestry, each rhythmic thread of which is dedicated to the
complex diversity of earth and its millions of creatures. The personal
inspiration from such richness is the resolve to “fight for my planet”.
That declaration is a powerful response to the
condition of our world, and a fitting reply to the Message From Mother Earth
written by English songwriter Frankie Armstrong nearly twenty years
ago. Our arrangement of this solemn and beautiful work builds layers of
harmony that intensify to the climactic and critical questions: “Why
can’t you hear? Why can’t you see?
Whether or not we choose to see and hear the distress
our world is in lies at the centre of a dialogue composed by Leon
Rosselson, also from England, in which we look Across The Hills
at the prospect of the ultimate environmental catastrophe - nuclear
war. The uneasy tension between fear and repose continues in the poetry
of Nigel Gray set to more music by Rosselson. This chilling lullaby
isn’t likely to help you Sleep Well.
And if uranium were not a fearful enough substance
there is also Asbestos.
The number of deaths caused by asbestos related diseases is due to
reach its peak by 2010. Emery Schubert’s wonderfully expressive
arrangement of this song contains some very fine original work.
Not only is our environment Fragile,
so are the human beings who defend it and each other. Sting’s moving
tribute to Ben Linder - a peace activist murdered by US sponsored
mercenaries in Nicaragua - is skilfully arranged by Christina Mimmocchi
for whom, as for many others, it carries wider resonances.
Yet loss and grief are not the end. Particularly when
we are joined with others, be they lover, daughter, friend or caring
stranger, we can find a greater depth of purpose after suffering
setbacks. In Come
Away With Me Tony Eardley started out writing a love
song but it became also a lament for our forests, and a passionate
determination to stand firm in a community of resistance.
A different kind of forest community is responsible
for our next offering. The three songs of the Ambore Medley
come from the Sepik River region of Papua Niu Gini and were brought to
Australia in 1995 by Henrik Ason, a member of the Raunisi Theatre Group
in Wewak. His visit was part of a campaign called 'Big Bush Bugarup'
exposing the depredations of the logging industry in PNG. The songs
were collected from the Bondna people living in the mountains 'half an
hour's walk from where the road ends', and arranged by Raunisi.
Additional harmonies were written by Jean Anne Jones and Miguel
Heatwole, both then members of the Solidarity Choir in Sydney Australia.
Ambore is about hunters and gatherers returning
from the forest to their village and children. A steady increase in
volume depicts the growing excitement at their approach. Pe Pe Pe
Pelesi Imo, a song handed down through several generations of
Bondna elders, reminds us how transient our lives are compared with
those of ancient forests. Emo Kikimo finishes the medley on a
celebratory note, expressing the joy of people who live in harmony with
their forest home.
We hold on to this upbeat mood as we look at various
forms of environmental activism. In Green Like Me, another of Paul
Spencer’s songs, we have a chuckle at people whose green credentials
appear rather pale when given daily examination, and hope we aren’t
laughing at ourselves!
Another local songwriter, Margaret Bradford,
demonstrates what we can more usefully achieve in our day-to-day lives:
wrapping some very practical advice about household water conservation
in a lively and humorous musical package. Miguel Heatwole's jazzy
choral arrangement of Drip Drop makes the most of the
Turning again to Paul, we find him inviting us to Make Some Music
and join in a chorus consisting of: banner drops - when activists scale
the heights of a tall building to hang a banner with a message on it;
lock on pipes - used by protestors to handcuff themselves to bulldozers
and such; tripods and canoes - the first a form of flimsy roadblock on
which a brave individual risks being injured by the wheels of
‘progress’, the second used to picket visiting warships, or vessels
carrying rainforest timbers or nuclear waste. We also ought to explain
for the benefit of listeners from other countries that in Australia the
Liberal and Labor parties are comparable to the Republicans and
Democrats in the USA and the Tories and Labour in Britain. Not much to
Traffic And Authority Paul employs a quick satirical
wit to show the foolishness and danger of authority’s addiction to the
motor car. It could well be said that he follows in the footsteps of
Tom Lehrer whose 1960s classic, Pollution, is one of the earliest,
and wittiest environmental songs ever penned. Laugh ‘til you cough, but
save some for its companion piece Air by Galt MacDermot, James Rado
and Gerome Ragni. From the 1960s 'American Tribal Love Rock Musical'
Hair, this song is an upbeat critique of our society's production of
airborne toxins. Ecopella does not perform nude!
We turn now to two pieces that in different ways
express a general joy and wonder at the world. Roy Gullane of
Scotland’s Tannahil Weavers, in a work arranged by our Terry Clinton,
helps us keep in mind the worthiness of every victory achieved in the
struggle for a Land
Of Light. And taking a long view from the depths of
space we may see Fay White’s majestic, slow and solemn tribute to the
ancient beauty of the Universe's Daughter.
We conclude with the thought that however heavy the
losses endured by our earth, however powerful the greed and stupidity
that poison it, there is absolutely no point in giving up. The worst
thing you can do is nothing. The best thing you can do is find good
people and Stand