The recipient of the Critics' Choice artsHub Award for Contribution to the Australian arts community by an individual was Queensland Music Festival’s program director Erica Hart for Ailan Kores, a major community project that brought together choir participants from six Torres Strait Islands for a performance of major choral works with the Queensland Youth Orchestra.
Nominated by a colleague, Hart says she was pleasantly surprised to find herself among the nominees for the artsHub Awards. ‘To be honest I was startled and my reaction, I was speechless, an unusual state for me. I was really delighted.’
‘The competition was strong so I felt appreciative of the honour of being judged against such a powerful field. It is also rather wonderful to know that so much is work being performed across Australia and that individuals can have the opportunity and privilege to be effective.’
Ailan Kores featured a community choir from the Torres Strait Islands of Horn, Hammond, Iama, Erub, Mabuiag and Thursday performing with the Queensland Youth Orchestra and six soloists for a thoroughly researched program blending iconic Western music to traditional Torres hymns. The performance was the result of more than eight months of workshops with choral director Alison Rogers on each of the islands and has increased cultural connectivity between the islands and the mainland.
‘It was great to win the Award, great for me personally and also for the Torres Strait community who are so keen for their music to be heard outside their own communities. Their enthusiasm and willingness to come along the mysterious journey, for the outcome couldn’t be predicted. What we were doing was innovative,’ says Hart. ‘I think it is wonderful to be acknowledged in this way and I know the Ailan Kores choir feel blessed that their work has been recognised by a national body.’
‘It can be difficult to transfer the sense of achievement and artistic merit when the event is so far away from major centres; and the Torres Strait is the extreme top of Australia. I am fortunate I love my work and I have the opportunity to work on projects that are personally fulfilling and yet connect me to vital and exciting communities in Queensland. All these communities have stories that should be told to the broader community and the Torres Strait overcomes isolation of distance and its island cultures.’
Hart will continue to work with Queensland Music Festival in 2013. ‘This year I had the chance to return to the Torres Strait and work on a follow-up to Ailan Kores with the Choir and the chamber group Topology at their Festival, the Winds of Zenadth. This was really exciting and now we look at a new program that again looks towards Queensland remote communities. One of my favourites is the Cape York Instrumental project working across several Indigenous communities from Aurukun in the western Cape to Yarrabah in the east.’