Ross writes: On 27 June 1818 the explorer John Oxley became the first European to set eyes on the Warrumbungle mountains in north-eastern New South Wales. His journal reveals the deep impression made by this “most stupendous range of mountains, lifting their blue heads above the horizon”. Surely the peaks and bluffs reminded him of the spires and tors of his homeland after the “boundless desert” which he and his party had been travelling for so long. Fred Watson’s poem Mountain Chant, which provides the text of the central chorus, juxtaposes European and Celtic imagery associated with the Warrumbungles with the names of Dreaming sites of the indigenous people for whom the mountains were a continuous divine revelation.
Mountain Chant, composed at a time when Australia seems more than ever in need of spiritual regeneration, was jointly commissioned by two leading Australian choirs: Cantillation & the Melbourne Chorale, each of which received assistance from the Australia Council. It is dedicated to my friend and collaborator, Fred Watson, Astronomer-in-Charge of the Anglo-Australian Observatory at Siding Spring in the Warrumbungles, who also provided the text of my choral Fourth Symphony, Star Chant.
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