Program notes

Larrakia Lament, opus 105 (2018)

Larrakia Lament was composed in response to a commission from the Queensland Performing Arts Centre in August 2018 for use in their 11 November 2018, Armistice Day concert in Brisbane. The project was to create musical works to represent three conflicts which for different reasons are often forgotten; the other two works in the series are by Elena Kats-Chernin and Ross Edwards.

The Bombing of Darwin on 19 February 1942, which killed over 250 people and caused significant damage to naval and civilian vessels, was only one of over 100 air raids on the Northern Territory, Queensland and Western Australia, between the 4th of March 1942 and 12 November 1943, most of which were downplayed or censored in order to reduce panic in the civilian population. More than half of Darwin’s civilian population left the area permanently as a result of the bombing. It was the largest single attack ever mounted by a foreign power on Australia.

Larrakia Lament, scored for didjeridu, choir and taiko drummers, takes a Lutheran chorale from the era, When in the hour of need, and mixes it with excerpts of diary accounts of the bombing to evoke that terrible day.   ‘Larrakia’ is the traditional indigenous name for the Darwin area. The work is dedicated to Christopher Latham who directed the project.

© Andrew Schultz, 2018


Larrakia lament


I stand,

I watch,

I hear the planes,

I see them come


I see Zeros, Betties, up above,

forty planes this Thursday morn.


Shadows cross the northern sky,

low to the land, over the sea.


When in the hour of need,

The hour of utmost need.


I hear the bombs, their thud and crash

as boats and buildings burn.


We know not where to look for aid,

Days and nights of anxious thoughts.


The planes they strike again,

again sirens wail.


No help nor comfort find,

We know not where to look.


But this our comfort,

This our rescue is from misery:

That we may meet again,

Not cry in vain to Thee.


I hear no sound,

this sudden quiet,

a distant voice.


Hear all these:

these who cry.


We Stand.


© Andrew Schultz, 2018