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Ngarra-burria means 'to listen to sing' in the Sydney language (Dharug/Eora). As a composer descending from the Indigenous people of the region of Sydney and the Central Coast (to the north), and as a previous Head of Dept at Eora Centre (an Indigenous College in Sydney) I noted the need for a mechanism to support developing and emerging Australian Indigenous composers. This program is the result. We're new, yet very, very old.

Indig composer dinner .jpg

(Composers dinner in 2017, with guest Bunna Lawrie in front)

We started in 2015/2016. Mentors include Kevin Hunt, Deborah Cheetham, Kim Cunio and myself. Participating composers include some of the best Indigenous musicians in the east - Troy Russell, Brenda Gifford, Elizabeth Sheppard, Rhyan Clapham (Dobby), Tim Gray, Nardi Simpson, Eric Avery, Marcus Corowa and James Henry. The music is varied in style, full of cultural expression, and engaging. Several of our composers are now receiving commissions from major ensembles and organisations including Ensemble Offspring, the Sydney Philharmonia Choirs, Sydney Living Museums, various residencies and more.

The major cultural partner and advisor is Moogahlin Performing Arts, Sydney. The program is based at the School of Music Australian National University Canberra, and other partners ensuring the success of the program include Ensemble Offspring, the Australian Music Centre, the Eora Centre, and more recently the Royal Australian Navy Band.

See links for information and to hear sounds:

The composers - an introduction

Radio National The Music Show ABC with Andrew Ford – a brief introduction of the composers Brenda Gifford, Troy Russell, Tim Gray, Elizabeth Sheppard and Rhyan Clapham.

Hear composers

ABC Concert (Eugene Goosens Concert Hall Sydney) Nov 30 2018, and re-broadcast July 11, 2019. Includes interviews with the composers, Moogahlin Performing Arts Director Fred Copperwaite, Chris and some of the composers.

Initial funding from Apra info: Limelight magazine article - Indigenous Composers Initiative:

Mixcloud Ngarra-burria program on ABC Classic, Stephen Adams producing Nov 30, 2018.

Currency House Press link to the paper/book Ngarra-burria New Music and the Search for an Australian Sound. Focus is on Indigenous composers and their situations in the Australian classical and new music scenes. Purchase book at this site.

Canberra Times on Ngarra-burria First Peoples Composers program April 2019:

The Conversation article on Sainsbury’s paper published by Currency House Ngarra-burria New Music and the Search for an Australian Sound April 2019:

Esteemed musicologist and concert reviewer/critic Professor Malcolm Gillies on Sainsbury’s Bark of the ‘bidgee premiere in May 2019. See Resonate magazine. Includes commentary on the Ngarra-burria book:

So what line ups are they writing for at present? Troy Russell is writing for clarinet and piano, Tim Gray for reggae band with horn section, Elizabeth Sheppard for a medium sized mixed ensemble, Brenda Gifford, Nardi Simpson, James Henry and Eric Avery are all writing for saxophone quartet. Rhyan is writing for voice and snare drum.

What themes are they exploring? Essentially new expressions of old cultures, also current political narratives, nature and relationship to land, Indigenous language reclamation, and just plain music for music sake! See the video and radio links, also the Australian Music Centre Echo education link. Yes, high school kids around the country are listening to and studying what these composers are doing!

Indig Composers n Ensemble Offspring 2018.jpg

With Ensemble Offspring at Eora College, 2017