Review: Katie Noonan & Australian String Quartet @ The Tivoli Theatre (Brisbane)

  • Written by 
  • Monday, 18 November 2019 16:17
Katie Noonan & Australian String Quartet 'The Glad Tomorrow'. Katie Noonan & Australian String Quartet 'The Glad Tomorrow'.

Hallowed be the anecdotes of the Jandai ancestors, as encapsulated in verse by Oodgeroo Noonuccal, and enthroned on pillars of voice, spoken and sung.


Katie Noonan and Australian String Quartet’s ‘The Glad Tomorrow’ (at The Tivoli Theatre 31 October) is not so much a record, show or concept as it is a thriving excerpt of historical futures, nesting like a watchful jabiru atop a monument of civilisation.


Ten pieces were commissioned by indigenous composers to carry Noonuccal’s whispers, translated into English by her grandson, Joshua Walker.

After the interactive Welcome to Country (a welcome is, after all, a two-way street), Noonuccal’s Great Granddaughter, Kaleenah Edwards, takes to the microphone to recite the first of her matriarch’s poems in Jandai language. 

The strings begin the guiding path for a sensory walkabout.



It’s spectacular to witness Katie’s voice being the grounding vector (don’t take that to mean in terms of altitude) amidst soaring, discordant strings: frequently her voice is the weaving, decorative feature of a performance. It’s still there of course – resplendent, and at times showing its full force and gentle breadth – but this entire curation demonstrates utmost respect: the story, and each composer’s interpretation is at the forefront, before the artistry of cadence.

“Grief is not in vain, It’s for our completeness…” – I’m reminded here, in this moment, just how much beauty convicts us of our sins. As well as our reasons to live.

The Queensland contingent this evening is strong – five of the ten composers being from the Sunshine State; half of the Australian String Quartet, and Katie and Kaleenah.

‘Balance’ paints a grave picture: “Next of kin to death is life, and life to death.”

“The ASQ doesn’t usually play in venues like this, so we feel a little bit cooler,” tells cellist Sharon Grigoryan, long-standing quartet member, as she introduces Peter Sculthorpe’s ‘Jabiru Dreaming’ (not included on ‘The Glad Tomorrow’ album).

Sending us home with a lullaby, Katie encourages: “We invite you to think of your bed, or whatever is your sense of home and safety.”

The lore is in safe hands here, ushered along the airwaves to the new Dream Time, as conveyed in the English incarnation of ‘A Song of Hope’: “To our fathers’ fathers the pain and sorrow; To our children’s children the glad tomorrow.”

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