How do you write a song about the blinding, debris-slinging dust storms that ravage towns across dry and dusty NSW?

Well, local composer and conductor Rowen Fox is doing just that, in creating a choral and orchestral showstopper on the life and work of nature hero, Albert Morris, who worked to restore life among the dust storms of Broken Hill.

Jacqueline Shimeld from the participating Phoenix Choir said Rowen’s work was all about overcoming the odds through much adversity.

“This amazing, successful story that came out of a lot of hardship is the focus of Rowen’s work,” she said.

A preview of this oratorio, a large-scale orchestral work with voices – think Handel’s Messiah – was set to be an uplifting crowd pleaser in Blackheath this month.

Then after the lockdown extension announced last week by NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, the concert will have to be rescheduled to a later date.

The performance to look forward to will feature the choir, with a string quintet, a clarinet, piano and two soloists, who will have a gargantuan task. They will musically recreate Morris’ 1930s Broken Hill words and work, as he persistently pioneered a plant life salvation project amid much hindrance.

The prosperous mining town was renowned for its lead, zinc and silver mining since the 19th century, and mining operations had caused a lot of erosion in the area according to Monument Australia.

An amateur botanist and ecologist, Morris worked restoring the town’s degraded landscape through a re-vegetation project. Resistance sprung up from locals, who didn’t support him at first. But along with his wife, Margaret and some other local help they managed to revitalise the land, and create reserves that surround Broken Hill to this day.

They fostered local plant growth, well adapted to the heated, arid conditions, and built fences to protect trees from the winds.

And these windy dust storms will be presented, sans dust, during the performance. Jacqueline gushed over the excitement of creating the musical windstorm. “It’s very exciting, the dust storm is one of the choruses we are practicing,” she said. “How it piles up, and overwhelms buildings and so on.’

It’s no easy feat to recreate such a devastating phenomenon that has blasted through crops, stripped away plant life and choked creeks across our state. So as Morris stood still and persisted against such formidable forces, often out of his control, let us take a leaf out of his book during these changing times.

Please check Rowen’s website for rescheduling updates.

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