Artistic Associate: Gondwana Choirs

A collaboration between Artistic Associate Gondwana Choirs and young composer Alice Chance brought stories of Barangaroo to life through music and song.

In 2016, Gondwana Choirs was commissioned through the Artistic Associates Program to produce and perform six original compositions responding to the Barangaroo site.

Lyn Williams OAM, Gondwana Choirs founder and Artistic Director, engaged emerging composer Alice Chance to create works for children’s voices to represent moments in Barangaroo’s history, including: the continuity of Australia’s First Peoples; telling stories of Barangaroo and Bennelong’s first encounter with European settlers; of the colonial town; of finding work on the Hungry Mile during the Great Depression; and, the sounds of the urban city.

Chance composed a suite of six short choral works, each inspired by a different aspect of Barangaroo. They were composed for two different ensembles of the Gondwana Choirs - the Sydney Children’s Choir and the Gondwana Indigenous Children’s Choir.

The compositions were first performed on 25 March 2017 in the Cutaway as part of a series of cultural experiences called Aurora Eora, which brought Barangaroo’s stories to life through song and art.

One of the works, Barangaroo and Bennelong, is the story of the powerful Cammeraygal woman Barangaroo, her marriage to Bennelong and the unique relationship they sustained despite various pressures on both their lives.

Chance says: “They were the ultimate power couple. Bennelong spent a lot of time with the European settlers while Barangaroo worked very hard to continue fishing expeditions and maintain normal life with her people.”

Aurora Eora, the title piece composed specifically for the cathedral like atmosphere of the Cutaway at Barangaroo, was showcased as part of a sound installation that transformed the extraordinary space beneath Barangaroo Reserve into an immersive harmonic experience like no other.

To animate the stories and songs, the former Barangaroo Delivery Authority partnered with Lendlease and Art Month Sydney for the curation of an outdoor exhibition of four newly commissioned contemporary artworks that responded to the compositions.

The works on hoardings, which are on display during 2017, are by acclaimed contemporary Australian artists Reko Rennie, Tony Albert, Karen Black and Joan Ross. A new work by artist Gemma Smith was a digital-only experience during Art Month 2017.

About Gondwana Choirs

Gondwana Choirs has a history of celebrating through song some of Sydney’s iconic venues and spaces. What began as one small choir when it was founded in 1989 has now grown to more than 22 ensembles of 500 young choristers. Gondwana National Choirs was added in 1997 and Gondwana Indigenous Children’s Choir more recently in 2008. All are under the baton and guidance of Lyn Williams OAM.

Williams says: “The choir is part of Sydney and we want to give the children a sense of being part of all the wonderful things that happen here. When Barangaroo opened it was immediately obvious our new partnership should be with them because of the depth of interest of the site itself - from the story of Barangaroo herself, to the history of the early colonial days, the wharves and the Hungry Mile.” 


About the composer

At age 22, Alice Chance  was the obvious choice as the perfect composer to work with Barangaroo and the young choristers. Not only does she sing with Gondwana Choirs but she studied composition at Gondwana before beginning her Bachelor of Composition at the Conservatorium of Music. In 2013 Williams selected her as one of the emerging composers the choir regularly works with, resulting in Chance’s early work The Shakespeare Room, inspired by the exquisite stained-glass chamber in the Mitchell Library, where the choir later performed.

Williams says: “Alice has managed to capture not only the essence of the place, but the age group she’s writing for, and that’s quite a skill. Even some of the most experienced composers sometimes struggle with that: how to treat young children and the sorts of things that will spark their imagination and energy so they will bring that out in the performance.”


About the compositions

Nya wali banga

Music: Matthew Doyle and Alice Chance

Text: Alice Chance translated into Gadigal language by Matthew Doyle

The Gondwana Indigenous Children’s Choir and the Sydney Children’s Choir

Conductors: Lyn Williams and Elizabeth Vierboom

Piano: Sally Whitwell

Didgeridoo: Matthew Doyle

Producer: Bob Scott and Sam Allchurch

Sound Engineer: Bob Scott and Jason Blackwell


Barangaroo and Bennelong

Music and text: Alice Chance

The Sydney Children’s Choir

Conductor: Lyn Williams

Piano: Sally Whitwell

Producer: Jessica Wells

Sound Engineer: Bob Scott


Millers Point Mob

Music: Alice Chance

Text as recalled by Judy Taylor

The Sydney Children’s Choir (Training Choirs)

Conductor: Amandine Petit

Piano: Sally Whitwell

Producer: Sam Allchurch

Sound Engineer: Bob Scott


The Hungry Mile

Music and text: Alice Chance

The Sydney Children’s Choir (Young Men’s Choir)

Conductor: Sam Allchurch

Piano: Jem Harding

Producer: Amandine Petit

Sound Engineer: Bob Scott


The Eye of the Soundstorm

Music and text: Alice Chance

The Sydney Children’s Choir (Training Choirs)

Conductor: Owen Elsley

Piano: Sally Whitwell

Producer: Sam Allchurch

Sound Engineer: Bob Scott