London chamber orchestra Ruthless Jabiru will use its forthcoming performance to foster a revival of empathy towards refugees.
Centred around the world premiere of The Drowners, a major new orchestral song cycle by British-Australian composer Andrew Ford, the project will honour tidal forces and the many lives lost seeking asylum by sea. This focal work will be framed by the music of composers Nicole Lizée, Rosalind Page, Wolfgang Rihm and Fausto Romitelli to conjure a muted submarine dreamscape: a dark world of distorted gravity, out of body experience and ominous fantasies of the inner ear.
Ruthless Jabiru is an ensemble uniquely dedicated to exploring humanitarian, sustainability and social justice stories through the music of contemporary composers. Using orchestral sounds and their realworld associations, the programme will allude to the need for deeper understanding and compassionate discussion around refugee policy at both a local and global level.
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has declared an international humanitarian emergency of a scale and severity unmatched since World War II. Recent figures cite an unprecedented 28,300 people forcibly displaced by conflict, political persecution and climate vulnerabilities every day, of which a high proportion are children.
European asylum policy is increasingly complicated by its conflation with immigration reduction targets, the semantics of migration, perceived threat to national security and fear of a changing civic identity; despite the economic and cultural enrichment historically brought by an evolving demographic.
The release of photos of Syrian toddler Alan Kurdi washed up on a Turkish beach in 2015 ignited global outrage and a surge in donations to refugee charities. The family reportedly boarded an inflatable dinghy for a 30-minute journey from Turkey to the Greek islands: the vessel was at least double its capacity, travelling by night at speed to evade authorities and using counterfeit lifejackets which proved fatal on capsizing.
“These people have put everything on the line”, said conductor Kelly Lovelady, Ruthless Jabiru’s founding Artistic Director. “Using the orchestra’s organisational voice and the agency of music to bring a more nuanced understanding of the issue is the responsible thing to do.”
Comprised entirely of professional Australian musicians based within the major British orchestras and chamber ensembles, Ruthless Jabiru’s campaign will also observe responses to the Australian government’s mandatory immigration detention policies: a federal effort to combat human trafficking described variously by the international press as “brutal”, “toxic”, “draconian”, and “of dubious legality”.
The Drowners is an expansion of Ford’s orchestral song A Dream of Drowning: now with an additional five musings on ocean trauma to texts of George Barker, Georgina Molloy, Bruce Dawe, Stevie Smith and Shakespeare alongside the original Tim Winton setting.
Ruthless Jabiru will be joined by Australian baritone Morgan Pearse, fresh from title roles at Verbier Festival Academy, Badisches Staatstheater, and his return as Figaro in The Barber of Seville for English National Opera.
The Drowners will be delivered in partnership with the Menzies Centre for Australian Studies at King’s College London, honouring the Centre’s continuing dedication to a more comprehensive and balanced perception of Australian politics, history and culture than popularly available. The Drowners complete programme listing →
“A clear statement of intent… The orchestra has a clear musical identity and its future looks very bright indeed.” – Seen and Heard International
“A brilliant company.” – Australian Stage