22 February 2017 : A newsletter of the Australian Jesuits

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A ‘Southern Star’ at Christmas

A new CD brings together the music of Jesuit Fr Christopher Willcock and the words of writer and artist Michael Leunig.


Southern Star is Fr Willcock's take on an Australian Christmas. The newly-released recording is sung by the Choir of Trinity College, and also features Benjamin Britten's Ceremony of Carols.


Fr Willcock says the idea of composing a cycle of Christmas songs/carols for voices and harp came from harpist Marshall McGuire.


‘I remember him saying that every harpist in the country gets to do at least one gig a year, namely to play in Benjamin Britten's A Ceremony of Carols', says Fr Willcock. ‘But once that item in the programme is over, the harpist has nothing more to do.'


‘Marshall's suggestion was to have another cycle on the same theme, using the same forces as the Britten work, but written from an Australian viewpoint. This new work could then be included on the same programme as the Britten.'


He says Michael Leunig seemed to him an ideal person to write the texts for the cycle.


‘For a number of years I had been struck by the imagery and strength of expression in the short poem-text accompanying his cartoons which appeared around Christmas time in The Age.


‘Instead of the sugary sentiments which are so often found on Christmas cards, his words were stronger-boned, unflinching, but yet not without a ray of light or hope.'


The poems composed for the piece range from quiet meditations to pieces with brighter images and rhythms. They also include a poem based on a type of Aboriginal walking song.


‘There is, however, no mention of kangaroos or wombats', says Fr Willcock.


Fr Willcock composed a cycle that would be available in two versions: for three-part treble voices and harp, and for SATB choir and harp. The newly-released CD contains the version for adult voices.


The performers on the CD are the Choir of Trinity College, Melbourne, and the harpist is Marshall McGuire. The director is Michael Leighton Jones.


The CD is available at ABC shops, ABC Centres, music stores and ABC online: abcshop.com.au


Province Express has three copies of the CD to give away to our readers. To enter the draw to win a copy, click here and complete our user survey and tell us what you think of our newsletter. Winners will be announced in our next edition.



Comment On This Article

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Existing Comments

Trish Callaghan


The newsletter is a welcome relief in the in-box. Challenging and reminding me of the real issues and making my world bigger and more enriched. Thank you.

Tom Kruger


This is the first time I have read your email, although I read Australian Catholics and use articles in my R.E. classes. I am impressed with Leunig and I am sure that the CD will be a fine collection of songs.

Sr Rose Glennen


I am really interested to hear this music and in Darwin there is little hope of that. I just found your website and see that your newsletter may be a source of help to me in my work. Rose

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