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River City Voices collaborates with First Peoples composers, Ngarra-burria for Blue Sky Country Christmas performance

Phoebe Blogg -

Celebrating diversity, creativity, and the unifying power of music, Parramatta's flagship choir, River City Voices has announced their first collaboration with the esteemed Ngarra-burria: First Peoples Composers program.

The collaboration has occurred for 'Blue Sky Country Christmas', a unique musical performance scheduled for December 8, 2023.

Marking the first-ever collaboration of the program with a choir as ensemble-in-residence, the musical event will be a night of song and celebration.

Talented composers including Marlene Cummins, Gavi Duncan, Tim Gray and Nicole Smede as well as program founder Dr. Chris Sainsbury and Elizabeth Sheppard as well as program alumna, will be in attendance alongside River City Voices symphonic choir.

Composer Nicola Smede. (Image: Bonnie Porter Green )

"It's so good to be partnering with River City Voices in the realisation of works by First Nations composers for choir, especially as they are centred in Parramatta, the site of Australia's first Aboriginal mission. There's some kind of full circle here," said founder of Ngarra-burria, First Peoples Composers program, Dr. Chris Sainsbury.

All of the composers in the event are associated with the Ngarra-burria First Peoples Composers program – a program that acknowledges established Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander musicians and offers classical composition mentoring for them as they step sideways and connect with the classical sector.

Striving to highlight the exceptional talents of Indigenous composers who are reshaping classical music norms, the event is not only an opportunity to showcase their talents but an acknowledgment of the composers and their significant contributions to Australian music.

Blue Sky Country Christmas is also a pivotal feature in River City Choirs Brave series, an initiative dedicated to pushing the boundaries of artistic expression.

Composer Gavi Duncan. (Image: Kevin Duncan)

"This concert gives our audience a chance to meet some fine artists who have been making music in our community for many years but who are only now starting to receive due recognition," said artistic director of River City Voices, Sarah Penicka-Smith.

"There's no more direct way to experience someone's else's perspective than through song, and each composer on our program has a totally unique musical voice, ranging from blues to ballads to radiant soundscapes.

"It's a pleasure and a huge privilege to be able to present this key Australian repertoire."

Led by Artistic Director Dr Sarah Penicka-Smith, River City Voices was established in 2018 to meet the community's demand for large-scale, accessible cultural events closer to home.

River City Voices choir. (Image: Grant Leslie)

Since launching the choir has engaged over 2,000 artists, arts workers and audiences through its festival performances, development programs, television appearances and workshops.

With the concert program offering an array of new compositions, spanning genres, personal narratives, and diverse experiences, Blue Sky Country Christmas is a unique opportunity to celebrate the culture of Australia's First Peoples.

Shining a light on the talent and collaborative spirit of both River City Voices and the several Indigenous composers, this event is set to deliver a unique and memorial performance for both attendees and performers.

Held at St Patricks Cathedral, Parramatta, River City Voices will perform Blue Sky Country Christmas on December 8 at 7:30pm.

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