The Black Arm Band & Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra
Wrest Point Entertainment Centre
Sat 2 April 2011
Sitting in the packed audience I was struck by the enormity of it all. What we, the audience and performers, were experiencing: The history. The growth. The death. And again the unstoppable growth, of everything that’s taken place to create the musical gestalt of Hidden Republic.
Like two deep rivers, each one cascading with its colossal history, merging together:
The Aboriginal culture, forming The Black Arm Band
The predominantly Anglo-Saxon culture, forming The Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra
The hollow trunk or branch that’s become Mark Atkins' didgeridoo
The brass tube of Shannon Barnett’s trombone
Both played with vibrating lips
The lives of the players and their devotion to music
The waters mixing, the sound transfixing
This was just one symbolic piece of nearly twenty that ran fluidly, one after another. The concert began gently with Genevieve Lacey’s whistle, evoking excited goose bumps. It gradually revved up with tempo and a ‘Nicky Winmar moment’, recalling the iconic image Winmar made during an AFL game when he faced the racist crowd, lifted his top and defiantly pointed to his skin.
The musical pace picked up with smooth transitions through celebrated songs like “Black fella, white fella…” By the time Yothu Yindi’s ‘Treaty’ sang out punters jumped up like seagulls to dance. The tempo moved to a definitive reflective finale (without whiff of even the possibility of an encore) by Leah Flanagan “Goodbye is so hard to say when you know you won’t be saying it again…”.
The line-up of musicians was phenomenal. Featured artists (not already mentioned) included Lou Bennett, Emma Donovan, Tasmania’s Dewayne Everettsmith, Shane Howard, Bunna Lawrie, Jimmy Little, Djolpa McKenzie, Shellie Morris, Stephen Pigram, Archie Roach, Ursula Yovich. The TSO conductor was Ben Northey with overall concept and direction by Steven Richardson.
It was strange to pass through the bingo machines of Wrest Point for this gig, but once in the Entertainment Centre venue, the quality of the sound was tops. Driving home, it wasn’t hard to imagine the camaraderie of the performers backstage, and I thought about Uncle Jimmy Little’s words “And joy complete us in our new dream time”.