On a wet and windy Saturday 4 July a small audience enjoyed this amazing pastiche performance at the Glebe Town Hall. The Griffyn Ensemble, Canberra’s premier Chamber Music Group, under the artistic direction of composer, anthropologist and mandolinist Michael Sollis, told their story in music, song, archival film, contemporary videotaping and recitation. It combined the ‘unlikely bedfellows’ of music, football, history and social politics to explore what was happening in Australia during WWI, and compare pressures facing Australians, both then and now.
The title comes from the name of the first Rugby League club formed in Australia in 1908. This Glebe club was known as the Dirty Reds, therefore it was fitting to have the ensemble’s Sydney performance take place in Glebe. ‘Team Griffyn’ included Susan Ellis, soprano, Kiri Sollis, flute, Chris Stone, violin, Laura Tanata, Harp, Holly Downes, double bass and was lead by Michael Sollis who wrote, or sourced and arranged, all the music. The performance included WWI era pieces such as What do you think of the Kaiser? Chas. Vaud (1915), Rest Soldiers Rest by Arthur Morley (1916), Daddy’s in the Firing Line by Chas. Ridgeway and Roger Cameron (1916), Pearls and Savages by Frank Hurley and Emanuel Aarons (1921), Is ’E an Aussie? by Flotsam and Jetsam (1930) and more recent works like Green Fields of France by Eric Bogle (1976), and Michael Sollis’s own compositions Heartbeat, Origins of Football, The Digger’s London Leave, and Conscription.
This performance was a fitting adjunct to the many WWI commemoration events taking place in Glebe this year, and for many heritage-minded Glebites, an experience unfortunately missed.