The world premiere of Robert McLellan's Taribelang Welcome Song will be at the Moncrieff Entertainment Centre bandabara on 15 November 2019.
When Robert first heard his Welcome Song recording for the bandabara concert, composed in New York and combined with strings from The Juilliard School, it was an emotional moment.
It was a culmination of years of work to reclaim the Taribelang language and thoughts of his grandma that really brought the significance of the piece home.
Titled Taribelang Welcome Song, Robert was the original composer for the work which features a welcome to country and acknowledgment in his traditional language.
The proud Taribelang and Gooreng Gooreng man said it was special to hear his vision starting to come together.
“I’ve been involved in the language reclamation of the Taribelang language for the past four years,” Robert said.
“We’ve done a lot in those four years but I have never heard my language like this before and it really makes me so proud to hear it like that.
“It really keeps us pushing forward to continue what we are doing as a community to reclaim our language.
“My grandmother was never able to speak her language.
“When I heard it all together when it came back from New York I was thinking of her.”
Robert joins with industry experts to compose bandabara piece
Through Robert’s lyrics the song sends a powerful message of belonging to country:
The song was originally composed alongside Christie McLucas in 2018 as part of the Yuwarr Project, with assistance from the Central Queensland Language Centre and linguist Elisabeth Ford.
“That was originally an initiative to get the community learning our language through song.
“By the end of the year we had 1500 people sing Taribelang, it was pretty incredible.”
From that simple melody Robert has since been privileged to work with a range of renowned artists to prepare the composition for the bandabara concert.
In collaboration with conductor Michelle Leonard OAM, the audio of Robert singing was sent to New York to be arranged with strings from The Juilliard School by Australian composer Andrew Howes.
“It’s a choral performance and we’re featuring Brisbane band Topology who will be playing live with a large choir on stage.
“We’ve worked with many different composers.
“Everything for this show has been composed especially for it, it is all original.”
On stage projections by Mic Gruchy will also play throughout the performance in what is shaping to be a spectacular performance.
While he has sung and performed his entire life, Robert said the Taribelang Welcome Song was one of his most difficult assignments yet.
“I wanted to capture that Aboriginal songman theme,” he said.
“That’s not how I normally sing.
“It really pushed me beyond my comfort zone and it was quite strenuous.
“I’m glad I did it as I was happy with the result.”
Robert said when it came down to the final recording, it all came from the heart.
“You need to allow yourself to be somewhat vulnerable to produce artwork, you need to be prepared to fail,” he said.
“I’m really proud of the outcome and I’m really excited to put it all together.”
He said the project provided support for his ongoing language reclamation work.
“It reassures us that we are doing good work in the language reclamation space.
“To have good people supporting the work we’re doing, whether it’s here in Bundaberg or in New York, I feel really supported in this language reclamation journey.”
Tickets available now for bandabara concert
The bandabara concert, to be held at the Moncrieff Entertainment Centre on 15 November, will be the world premiere of seven new works by six composers.
Four of those composers are from Bundaberg.
The bandabara concert will begin immediately after the Milbi Festival gala opening.