Spirit of Place

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Australia has been home to people from many lands for over 60,000 years. All have sought to find their ‘spirit of place’, a land where they can live safely and prosper. This recording by the Royal Australian Navy Band pays respect to our southern land and to all people who have lived or travelled here in search of peace, community and shared values. From the first light on Uluru to a community celebration by our latest immigrants, this collection of music from our combined cultures shows Australia as a land of many, sharing the same optimistic future.

Lieutenant Commander Steven Stanke, RAN


Track 1 - Aurora Australis

Martyn Hancock

Aurora Australis, the southern hemisphere’s equivalent to the famous Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights), is a colourful night sky light display visible from high southern latitudes in Antarctica, Chile, Argentina, New Zealand, and Australia. This descriptive work for wind band depicts this wonderful glowing sky phenomenon as it subtly grows from nothing into a large energetic geomagnetic storm, emitting contrasting shapes and colours in the night sky, before gently fading away as the night comes to an end. Aurora Australis was the winning entry of the 2016 inaugural Australian Wind Symphony Composition Competition.


Track 2 - First Light At Uluru

Katia Beaugeais
Didgeridoo: William Barton

Uluru, a giant red rock located in the middle of Australia’s red desert, is sacred to the Anangu, the Aboriginal people of the area. The rock is believed to hold a powerful energy source, marking the place where Dreamtime began. At dawn and sunset, the rock is illuminated with a red and orange glow.


Track 3 - Spirit Of Place

Archie Roach, arranged Martyn Hancock
Vocals: Leading Seaman Tracy Kennedy
Didgeridoo: William Barton

Spirit of Place by multi-award winning Indigenous singer/songwriter Archie Roach encapsulates the tranquillity and spirit of this great southern land, inhabited for many tens of thousands of years by those seeking a place to call home. Australia has become a ‘Big River’, a society where old and new cultures merge, each changing the river slightly and creating islands of heritage but ultimately protecting and enriching all.


Track 4 - Into The Sun

Jodie Blackshaw

Into the Sun is a scrapbook of stories told by many of their passage to Australia, whether it was as free settlers in the 1800s, post-World War II immigrants or yesterday’s refugees seeking asylum, with a focus on those who came to the Western Sydney region.

“The biggest moment of my life was when my first daughter was born. I reflected that night on the journey that my family had taken and life’s amazing journeys.” Michael Gawenda, from Poland, arrived in Australia 1950.


Track 5 - Spring Morning

Han Yi Liang

“I awake light hearted this morning of spring
everywhere ‘round me the singing of birds
but now I remember the night, the storm
and I wonder how many blossoms were broken.”
Meng Haoran (689-740)


Track 6 - Becoming A Dancer

Christopher Gordon, arranged Steven Stanke

Mao’s Last Dancer is the inspiring true story of Li Cunxin and his extraordinary journey from a poor upbringing in rural China to international stardom as a world-class ballet dancer. This compelling tale captures the struggles, sacrifices and triumphs during Li’s search for freedom and demonstrates the courage it takes to lives one’s own life. Music for the film directed by Bruce Beresford is by the Australian composer Christopher Gordon.


Track 7 - The Water Is Wide

Traditional, arranged Steven Stanke
Vocals: Able Seaman Elli Bortolotti
Backing vocals: Leading Seaman Tracy Kennedy, Able Seaman Mark Nivet

This popular folk song, of Scottish origin, is based on lyrics that partly date from the 1600s and describes the challenges of life as time progresses where even true love, it is said, can 'fade away like morning dew.'


Track 8 - From The Heart Of Europe

Traditional, arranged Jaga Band and Steven Stanke
Vocals, Violin: Mar’yana Sywak
Cimbalom: Lucy Voronov
Flute: Jacinta Mikus
Bass: Nicole Murray-Prior
Accordion: Tatjana Marx

These two folk songs, from Slovakia and Ukraine, bring Old Europe to Australia, and are performed by Sydney’s Jaga Band, a Ukrainian/Gypsy ensemble performing virtuosic eastern European music with a focus on Carpathian musical culture.


Track 9 - Hymn for Colin

Martyn Hancock

Hymn for Colin was composed in memory of Leading Seaman Colin Hughes, a member of the Royal Australian Navy Band who was tragically killed on duty on 22 September 2012. The music is loosely based on the theme to the TV series The Watermill, which Colin would perform as a solo on his instrument, the oboe. Towards the end of the piece, there is also a reference to the Naval Hymn (Eternal Father, Strong to Save) reflecting on Colin's naval background, both in His Majesty’s Royal Marines and the Royal Australian Navy.


Track 10 - My Country Australia

Gavin Lockley, arranged Steven Stanke
Vocals: Leading Seaman Tracy Kennedy

Composer Gavin Lockley and friend Michael Crouch, chairman of the Friends of the Australian Flying Doctor Service, had long thought that Australia needed a song that would unite 100,000 people at sporting events, something other than Advance Australia Fair or Waltzing Matilda. My Country Australia, featuring some of the text from Dorothea Mackellar’s My Country, is the result.


Track 11 - Brothers, Sing On!

Edvard Grieg, arranged Steven Stanke

Grieg drew inspiration from Norwegian folk music and Brothers, Sing On!, written in 1883, is perhaps the ‘international anthem’ of men’s choral singing. If all men, everywhere in the world could get together and sing, in the true spirit of peace and brotherhood, this might be the song.


Track 12 - Scotch Strathspey and Reel

Percy Grainger, arranged Steven Stanke
Featuring the Sydney Male Choir

In true Australian ‘multicultural’ spirit, Grainger’s Scotch Strathspey and Reel is a splendid example of what Grainger called ‘democratic polyphony’, his Australian ideal of a ‘many-voiced texture in which all or most of the tunes enjoy equal prominence.’ Many Celtic tunes are so alike in their harmonic schemes that any number of them can be played simultaneously. Occasionally a sea shanty will fit in perfectly as well!

All music played live.