Goulburn Oratorio

Goulburn Express, November 1, 2013

AN event for the history books, the tireless efforts of Goulburn’s cultural leaders will culminate on the weekend in one huge arts extravaganza. The 150th Oratorio will take place on Sunday evening, on St Saviours Common.

The final production will incorporate work from three of the city’s major cultural institutions; the Goulburn Regional Conservatorium, the Goulburn Regional Art Gallery and the Lieder Theatre. Southern Tablelands Arts, under the watchful eye of Elizabeth Brown, will coordinate the event.

Assigned the mammoth job of composing the project was internationally-renowned composer Stephen Leek. Mr Leek grew up in Canberra and trained as a classical composer. Having been in the industry for some 30 years and experienced the pressures of tackling similar projects, he was a perfect fit for the role. Starting production, planning and writing 18 months ago, Mr Leek said finding the source material and inspiration for context was the most difficult. The idea of celebrating not only Goulburn in its current state, but the future led to the use of local writers.

“We’ve actually drawn on some of the texts from local writers who have submitted them to the Council for another project,” Mr Leek told the Post. “They reflect the nature of the things we are looking for in terms of the local elements that are current and moving Goulburn forward.” Conservatorium Director Paul Scott-Williams revealed the piece is almost impossible to describe, although will be centred on the unique features of the region’s environment using the recurring theme of the Rocky Hill Beacon as the monument that sees all. “I think to root the piece in the environment is very much about where we are here and now and then taking it forward. Using the recurring theme of the beacon on Rocky Hill as this emblem of a vision for the future and also something that draws people together,” he said.

With the nature of the event being an enormous collaboration of the arts, rehearsals have been hard to manage. There has been only one rehearsal before the event, and no opportunity for a final run through, Mr Scott-Williams said. “A piece like this is always like a kaleidoscope,” Mr Leek added. “You’ve got so many different groups involved – piecing it together is almost like a jigsaw puzzle… When it happens at the last second and you put the last piece in place, that’s when it all comes together. “Sunday will be a very exciting time, challenging but exciting.” The natural amphitheatre of the Cathedral grounds will host the event. The audience will fill the hillside as the performance takes place below them.

Stylistically, Mr Leek said there will be something in the music for everyone to enjoy. “There’s a thematic link between all the pieces but there is a whole range of stylistic pieces I’ve written throughout the show for not only the audience but also for the performers,” he said. “If people come with an open mind and just see it for what it is they will enjoy it a great deal… It’s a one off; if the audience is not there in that moment they won’t experience the full strength of it.” The Oratorio will begin around 7:30pm on Sunday evening, at the St Saviours Cathedral Common.

Mr Scott-Williams said people are encouraged to bring their families and a picnic blanket, for a night under the stars. “(Goulburn) is a really vibrant arts community but the arts are often overshadowed by other things, and I understand that,” he continued. He hopes the evening will be a spectacular showcase of the regions’ artistic talent. A GIANT cane puppet named Alice will be the feature of the Oratorio’s theatrical performance.  Pupetteer Cara Jeffery said despite the large size of the puppet, Alice is incredible light.  She should know; she started building her only a month ago. Built onto a backpack, Ms Jeffery built Alice using cane, muslin and bamboo. She is also designed to light up when night falls. The impressive creation was Ms Jeffery’s first attempt at puppet-making. Her only other experience with puppets was being cast as Albert in the Lieder production of The Magic Pudding. “Alice will go on an adventure through a Goulburn wonderland,” she revealed. “It’s kind of exciting to do it again.”

Lieder Theatre Artistic Director Chirsjohn Hancock said a number of community youth organisations jumped on board to bring the theatrical elements together. The Guides, Scouts, PCYC, Liz Barling Dance School, Mulwaree High School, Goulburn High School, Trinity Catholic College and the Lieder Youth Theatre are just some of those involved. Joining the giant puppet, youth groups, fire show and circus performers will be a one and a half hour image projection, put together by the theatre’s Ben Martin. Mr Hancock said the event will highlight the working relationship between the City’s various cultural institutions. “The whole event is a real partnership,” Mr Hancock said. “It’s certainly been an interesting process of collaboration, and really worthwhile in cementing our relationships.”