I was fortunate enough to win tickets, courtesy of extempore, to Crossing Roper Bar and have to admit that I had some reservations as to whether the project of interspersing jazz with traditional Australian music and dance would work. However any such doubts were very quickly dispelled. The stunning, frenzied opening violin of Erkki Veltheim set the pattern with, for me, a frightening depiction of desolate, rugged Aussie landscape found in our remotest outback.
From then on every member of the Australian Art Orchestra stamped the programme with his particular talent. Tony Hicks – surely this country’s pre-eminent reeds player – stunned the audience with his virtuosity whilst never debasing the concept of the project.
Stephen Magnusson (guitar) and Philip Rex (double bass) supplied background sensitivity along with great solos. As for drummer Niko Schauble what can one say? The word I use to sum up Niko’s talent is Finesse. His drumming keeps the AAO focused and he never falls into that trap of drummer domination.
The four Wagilak musician/dancers – Benjamin, Daniel, Evan and Wesley Wilfred – gave the whole programme an undeniable sense of tradition, particularly with their singing. One could easily picture camp fires, shadows and a way of life which must never be lost to modernity. I was also struck by the way the traditional music blended so comfortably with modern music forms.
Then there is Paul Grabowsky. Now I must confess to being a long time admirer of Paul’s but, I have never been able to put a label on his work, in fact I doubt if anyone could. His talent, vision and creativeness are quite remarkable and Crossing Roper Bar must surely rank as one of his most stunning achievements.
In summation I found Crossing Roper Bar’ an innovative, thought provoking musical event, superbly performed, that deserves a wide audience and a place in the pantheon of great Australian music.
Editor’s note: Thanks to the Australian Art Orchestra and the Melbourne Recital Centre for the opportunity to offer these free passes to our subscribers! Sign up for our free newsletter to have similar passes, CDs and other opportunities sent straight to your inbox…