Exilio is the second work we wrote for Canto Coro. It was composed over February — May 1999.
Composers' program note
Over the years we have met many people who have come from countries caught up in violent political conflict, fuelled by extremes of inequality. Our enriching association with these people prompted us to continue exploring the themes in our previous work, Three Songs for a City, the search for a home and sense of belonging.
The poetry of Suchil Tunali and Ramón Cuelho, two Latin Americans living in Australia, conveys the depth of feeling caused by forced departure and exile, and dilemmas facing those who wish to return to their country of birth. We aimed to place their poems within the context of Australia’s history, recognising that these very same issues have not been resolved for indigenous Australians, hence the recurring song Stolen Land. Through the musical setting we wanted to do justice to the many people we have met who feel that this is their story, to fulfil our responsibility to those who have enriched our lives with their poetry and music.
Musically we draw on a wide variety of influences, but again Latin American, in particular Cuban elements continue as a reference point. The visit of Exaudi, a choir from Havana, to Australia in 1998 gave us another insight into the adaptation of Cuban music for choir. ‘Refugiado’ has certain Cuban rhythmic nuances, and ‘Exilio’ was inspired by the harmonic language of a Cuban guitarist, Frank Gonzalez.
Exilio was first performed by Canto Coro in a preview presentation at St Stephen's Cathedral, Brisbane on May 27 1999.
It then opened at the BEMAC space at Kangaroo Point on May 30, 1999 and had a season of five performances over June 3-6. Additonal performances were given in King George Square for the Dar Festival.
Exilio also featured in Cancion Colectiva, Canto Coro's retrospective program in 2000.
Mark Dunbar conducted all performances. The solo on Stolen Land was sung by Kerrie Woodrow. In 1999 the musicians were: Layla Majewski – Flute, Sue Monk – Guitar, Irine Vela – Guitar and Mandolin, and Jane Elliot – Cello. Maria Elena Ibaceta read the translations. In the repeat performance in 2000, Wendy Rowlands also played piano and piano accordian.
Immediately following the 1999 season Canto Coro recorded Exilio in the Music Department at the University of Queensland, with Mark Dunbar conducting. Kerrie Woodrow was the soloist on Stolen Land, Sue played guitar, Layla Majewski on flute and Jane Elliott on cello. Peter Freeman was the engineer.
The bridging song Stolen Land, was also recorded by the Brisbane Lesbian and Gay Pride Choir on their 2006 release, 'Equality'.