A convoy of four-wheel drive vehicles carrying an eclectic mix of musicians and their instruments will wind its way through the West Australian outback in September performing in some of Australia’s most remote communities.
For the classical musicians in the group, it will be a world away from the concert hall stages that they’re used to. For Broome’s Stephen Pigram, lead singer of the well-known Pigram brothers band, and didgeridoo virtuoso Mark Atkins, it is a chance to forge new bonds with the different communities.
The performers, a mix of Indigenous and non-Indigenous musicians, will sleep in tents, dongas and the odd motel room and use the landscape and the sky at each of their 11 concert stops as giant, outdoor auditoriums.
Kununurra, Warmun, Wangkatjungka, Fitzroy Crossing, Derby, Broome, One Arm Point, Beagle Bay, Djarindjin and Lombadina are all on the itinerary and the tour will finish with a big concert in Perth. The smallest community they will perform at is home to just a couple of hundred people.
In some of the communities the concert will coincide with local festivals and celebrations and local artists will join the performance. About six thousand people are expected to see the show.
Tos Mahony, the artistic director and Perth flutist behind the Reflections2 Tour, says the music will combine elements of country, jazz, world music and classical, and Pigram’s and Atkin’s songs arranged and performed “like you’ve never heard before”.
Tura, the not-for-profit music organisation he founded in the 1980s, has been taking musicians into remote areas for about a decade.
He says the early tours were an assortment of ensembles and productions which eventually culminated in 2008 in an award-winning tour with the Australian Art Orchestra and the Young Wagilak Group from Ngukurrin Land.
The Crossing Roper Bar Tour, from Darwin to One Arm Point, won a Classical Music Award for Outstanding Contribution to Australian Music in a remote area.
“That set a new benchmark for us culturally and off scale,” Mahoney says. “Ever since then it’s been a feature that the program itself has been a cross-cultural adventure, if you like, between Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists and also as the program has developed, this year especially, collaborating with artists as we travel along.”
The Reflections concert first toured the Kimberley last year and is back with a few additions and changes this year.
As well as Pigram, Atkins and Mahoney, the musicians will include violinist Erkki Veltheim, guitarist Stephen Magnusson, cellist Judith Hamann and percussionist Greg Sheehan.
Mahoney says the concerts are a bridge between worlds.
“For me it’s about the relationships with the people and especially the key people I am planning and talking with,” he says. “That sense of privilege of being allowed a bit into the cultural space to start to learn about what that is and what that means and to get an inkling of the critical importance of country and what different things it means to different communities – and how complex that is and how most of Australia doesn’t even get that inkling.
“It’s a privilege to get that inkling. What we hope we do in a tiny, tiny way is to bridge this lack of knowledge between what might be called mainstream Australia and especially the outback communities.”
For Veltheim, who was born in Finland but grew up in Australia, it is the second time he has made the trip. The violinist, who has also performed with The Black Arm Band and done other Indigenous collaborations, was also on the tour last year.
“I think the biggest lesson I learn is to once more reassess what it means to live in Australia and what Australia is,” says Melbourne-based Veltheim. “When you are in the capital cities or the eastern seaboard you get a very specific exposure to a very specific culture which is quite narrow compared to the richness when you go into the actual communities.
“You always think of that idea of remoteness, how we think of the remote communities as remote from Melbourne and Canberra, but when you are there you feel how it’s all very contextual to what your viewpoint is.
“I always feel like when I go to the bush or the desert, it’s a real realignment of my perspective of Australia.”
Pigram says the concerts open up possibilities.
“As musicians we get to know each other better, and as mentors we form relationships with the kids and the greater community,” he says. “This year I’m especially keen for us to collaborate with local artists, getting to know them and their communities. It’s a fantastic opportunity for them to hear their songs and stories performed and presented in the Tura way.”
A documentary of the journey will also be made.
The Reflections2 Tour will start in Kununurra with a community event on September 4, followed by a public concert at Ivanhoe Farms on September 5.
By the time the tour arrives in Perth on September 21 it will have evolved into Kimberley Reflections and will include special guests Gabriel Nodea from Warmun, Danny Marr from Fitzroy Crossing and Ashley Oobagooma from Derby.
Reflections2 tour dates
With the Waringarri Dancers and Ed McNeil
6.30pm Monday 5 September
Tickets: Kununurra Visitor Centre, Ivanhoe Farms
Gates and cafe open 5.30pm BYO + blankets or seating.
With Gabriel Nodea and Gija Dancers
5.30pm Wednesday 7 September
Warmun Art Centre & Djunba Grounds
5.30pm Thursday 8 September
Town Basketball Courts [Stephen Pigram not performing]
With special guest Danny Marr
6.00pm Friday 9 September
Gates open 5pm
With special guests Colin Pigram and Ashley Oobagooma
6.00pm Sunday 11 September
Mary Island Fishing Club
Tickets: Derby Visitor Centre
Gates open 5pm, Bar and Food on sale
BROOME as part of Shinju Matsuri 2016
With special guests Ashley Oobagooma and Paul Boon
7.30pm Tuesday 13 September
The Mangrove Hotel
Tickets: Mangrove Hotel, Broome Visitor Centre visitbroome.com.au
Bar and Food from 5pm
LOMBADINA as part of Ardi Festival
With Dardiyool, Backyard Country, Krista Pav and more
Gates 2.00pm Friday 16 September
Tickets: Lombadina Office
Local food festival from 2pm
With Gabriel Nodea, Danny Marr and Ashley Oobagooma
7.30pm Wednesday 21 September
Perth Concert Hall
Tickets: perthconcerthall.com.au, Ticketmaster.com.au or call 9231 9999
SCHOOLS AND COMMUNITY PROGRAM
3 – 6 September
6 – 7 September
9 – 10 September
11- 12 September
One Arm Point
Djarindjin & Lombadina
17 – 19 September
More details: www.tura.com.au