PEACE – A Cantata for John Monash

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Published: 8th August, 2017

His name is found all over Melbourne; Monash is a famous Australian university, and the city of Monash is one of the larger and most diverse in Victoria. But how much is really known about this man who inspired such honours, apart from his skills on the battlefield in WWl France?

In fact much of the fame of Sir John Monash comes from his contribution to the emergence of Melbourne itself as a great world city, with evidence of his engineering works even before the war, and well beyond.

Composed by David Kram and Poet Kevin O’Flaherty PEACE is the first musical work to tell the story of the great man’s life. It takes the form of a cantata, large in scope and in impact, as Melbournians are soon to hear for themselves. Let there be peace! The clarion call of Melbourne’s most famous son, Sir John Monash, opens the new massed choral work premiering in Hamer Hall on September 9.

This much-anticipated premiere has seen an enthusiastic response with over 200 singers from community, schools and university choirs in Victoria participating in what promises to be a memorable concert for everyone who knows and understands the impact John Monash has had on this city.

Now working on rehearsals with choir directors in Melbourne and regional Victoria, composer Dr David Kram reflects: “I’ve long been a fan of John Monash and as a musician, it felt natural to use colours of sound, to illustrate significant events of his life.  Kevin’s poem inspired me to compose PEACE as an opera, but gradually the writing took the form of a cantata; an en-masse piece for multiple soloists, choirs and orchestra, together representing the men, women and children from the places he lived in Melbourne and regional Victoria.”

Following key themes of love of family and loyalty to country, PEACE travels through the early years of John Monash’s life in Jerilderie to his student days at Melbourne University, as an engineer and business man in the heart of Melbourne, and as a soldier and leader of WWI Australian troops in Gallipoli and France.  There are poignant moments in the work where the tragedy of war and its effect on Australia are starkly juxtaposed with the innocence of children’s songs and larrikin student ditties of his days at university.

Featuring four soloists, baritone Michele Laloum, soprano Lisa Anne Robinson, mezzo-soprano Kristin Leich, and bass Eddie Muliaumaseali’i, Kram’s work brings to life key characters in Monash’s story: Bertha (his mother), Mathilde his sister and a cast of others who appear in recitatives, ensembles and arias commenting on significant events of his life. A symphony orchestra, conducted by David Kram, completes the work offering a rich diversity of sound.

Kram says“Monash and Melbourne are intertwined: – everywhere you go in this city you see glimpses of the great man – it’s where he lived and where his legacy lives on. We wouldn’t want the premiere of this monumental piece to be held anywhere else.”

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  • 9 September, 6.30pm is the date at Hamer Hall … don’t forget!!!!
  • PEACE is produced and managed by arts organisation More Than Opera.
  • Peace – A Cantata for John Monash, is an exciting and unique musical journey into the life of John Monash.
  • The concert is perfectly timed to follow commemorations of WW1 battles at the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne.
  • 2018 is the 100th anniversary of the battle of Amiens, which Monash won decisively for Australia, and the final link in the story of PEACE will be its Amiens premiere on 24 April 2018.
  • For more information about PEACE and John Monash, visit More than Opera’s website: morethanopera.com
  • Tickets are on sale to the public on at the Arts Centre:  artscentremelbourne.com.au

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 Editor’s note: This is a sponsored piece, with core information provided to Classic Melbourne by More than Opera.

However, having been to the launch and witnessed the company’s commitment to this project – and heard some of the soloists perform excerpts from the cantata – I was particularly impressed that David Kram not only composed the work for symphony orchestra, he reconfigured it for string quartet for a promotional video (to be added soon), and for good measure strummed along with the soloists at the launch on the Glenfern piano!

 I am happy to endorse the project and urge you to attend it for yourself. I for one look forward to hearing the complete work, which I expect will be a great success!

 Suzanne Yanko