Many Victorians are street-wise but not land-literate. We can describe the ecosystem of Android verses IOS but not know that a local lake is threatened. The word ‘gum tree’ to many people these days means, an alternative to Ebay. In a consumer-driven society we are brand aware but not land aware.
Victoria was once a place where approximately 40 indigenous languages were spoken. These languages spoke richly of our land and held wisdom about how to care for it. Language conveys respect for land, culture and identity – important not only for indigenous cultures, but all of humanity. Without the preservation of these languages, important knowledge will be lost.
We face environmental challenges as humans have never faced before. Species, landscapes, oceans and our climate are all under threat. Many people - environmentalists, scientists, and bird and animal lovers are trying to similarly communicate a language of awareness, preservation and care.
Music and song can help. It is a universal language. It tells stories. It engages children and the child in all of us. It can help communicate love for land, deepen knowledge of country and strengthen community. It is a powerful force for uniting and galvanizing action.
'Singing from Country' is an innovative project, which aims to inspire songwriters, choirs and other community members to learn about, appreciate and celebrate Country, reclaiming our love of land.
The project is a pilot study funded by the Regional Arts Fun to run between May 2016 and March 2017 in the shires of Hepburn, Mount Alexander and Greater Bendigo - regional areas, which fall in the southeast corner of Dja Dja Wurrung Country.
The project will gather songwriters, Aboriginal knowledge-holders, naturalists and ecologists through workshops sharing knowledge of Country – a creative, collaborative process leading to a celebratory festival and concert. From the project will come songs that help reconnect people to place. Recordings will provide a resource for choirs and a video will document the project process and outcomes.
Project Partners include VACL (The Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages) and Connecting Country. The hope is that a successful pilot project, will lead to a submission for a larger grant for this to become a statewide project.
Two ‘threads’ of the project
There are two main threads to Singing from Country (SFC) centred on a workshop and two months later, a festival day, run separately but woven together to strengthen the overall project.
1. The SFC Workshop
An intimate collaboration between a small group of local wisdom holders and 4 songwriters, who will then write 2 songs each giving the community 8 new songs celebrating connection to land. The songwriters have been selected through an open application process and the wisdom holders found through community networks.
A large event for local wisdom holders to share knowledge more broadly and also for community expression around the theme of singing from country. This is an opportunity for any songwriter or knowledge holder to connect with and write songs for this project. Whilst the focus is on song, this event welcomes other art expressions (dance, weaving, painting which connect us to country.
Singing from Country - outline and timeframe
- An open application process and selection panel chooses 4 SFC songwriters to be the main composers for part 1 of the project (May-June 2016).
- Promotion of the project (part 1 and 2) and engagement with wisdom holders (July – Aug 2016).
- SFC Workshop – a small gathering of these 4 songwriters with key knowledge holders in the region - traditional land owners, ecologists and field naturalists (Sept 2016).
- Songwriters begin collaborative composition.
- SFC Festival, October 29. A large community interactive forum sharing the wisdom of key knowledge holders and hearing from the community. All interested community members can attend welcome, both from within project region and outside.
The festival showcase is the SFC concert (night of October 29). Following this interactive day - the 4 songwriters will unveil their songs in an event symbolically ‘gifting’ the songs to the community. The event may include other songs coming out of the daytime event.
- Engagement of local choir-leaders to arrange and teach the SFC songs and rehearse with their singing groups
(Dec 2016 – Feb 2017).
- Performance of SFC songs by choirs in large event as part of Castlemaine State Festival (March 17 - 26, 2017).
Documentation of the project
Filming of the project will take place at the workshop and both the concerts. It is hoped this will become a short promotional video about the project to support a funding application for Singing from Country to become a statewide initiative. Studio recordings of the commissioned songs will also be completed as a CD. Transcription of song lyrics and choir arrangements have been produced and are now available here.
How can I get involved in Singing from Country?
You've obviously found our webpage, which is a great start! Why not also consider doing one of the following:
- Become a Friend of SFC and join in the discussion at our Facebook Event
- Write songs about your connection to country (we'll be offering a way for you to upload and share these at a later date.)
- Tell us about your connection to country and the art you make which expresses that
- Put the SFC Festival date in your diary (October 29, 2016)
- Let us know if you want to volunteer to help at the event
- Join a local choir or ask about your singing group performing an SFC song
- Come to the Castlemaine State festival performance in March 17-26, 2017
Now you've found us, stay in touch! Keep an eye on this page for news of the project as it unfolds, or become a friend of the project by joining the Singing from Country Facebook group.