An unusual group of musicians and performers have gathered in Canberra to begin three months of preparations for an ambitious, off-beat adventure – a seven-month world tour.
Wayfarers Australia are a choir whose members come from across the country – twenty-five members from eight different towns and cities, as far afield as Alice Springs and Coffs Harbour. They range in age from 12 to 70. Between them, the Wayfarers play dozens of instruments, speak many languages, and bring skills in dance, drama, puppetry, on-the-spot production design and other aspects of performing arts.
The director of Wayfarers Australia, Judith Clingan AM, is perhaps Canberra’s best-known musician, and one of Australia’s most respected music educators. A composer, teacher and conductor since the 1960s, Judy’s name is a byword in Canberra’s music scene for peripatetic, energetic, visionary and occasionally chaotic musical brilliance. At an age when most are winding down, Judy is driving her most ambitious musical adventure yet.
The Wayfarers’ tour begins with two months in south-eastern Australia, from Adelaide to the far north of NSW. In May, the Wayfarers will leave for Taiwan and mainland China, before crossing Mongolia and Russia on the Trans-Siberian Railway. The choir will visit towns and cities in Scandinavia, central and western Europe, Britain and India, before returning in early November. On their way, the Wayfarers plan to walk part of the Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage route across northern Spain; sing mass in the Cathedral Basilica of St Mark in Venice; sing in a chapel built by Italian PoWs in the Orkneys; perform in a rural Indian village; and stay at a health resort in Irkutsk.
On this improbable adventure, the Wayfarers will support themselves by running choral and music theatre workshops, giving various concerts, and busking – a tried and tested, if demanding modus operandi. Wayfarers Australia started out in the 1990s with a strong connection to the Steiner educational movement, and continues to connect with the global community of Steiner schools and artists as its principal network. This allows for real shoestring travel, with a chain of schools and communities planning to billet the choir for much of its way across the world.
Ahead of their departure, Wayfarers Australia will be giving a series of concerts and performances around Canberra, each with a different theme.
- One Thousand Years takes the audience through one thousand years of choral history, from medieval, renaissance, baroque, classical, romantic, to 20th and 21st century choral music.
- This Planet We Share comprises various pieces that express fears and hopes for humanity’s place on a fragile Earth, and in our own beautiful country. The concert includes a music theatre performance of Clingan’s Kakadu.
- My Spirit Rejoices presents a historical sweep of sacred music over five hundred years, with Bach’s sublime Jesu Meine Freude as the concert’s centrepiece.
- The Dancing Wombat is a children’s performance of some of the dozens of ‘story songs’ that Clingan has composed over years of ‘Imagine’ workshops.
- The Ring Bearer is Clingan’s acclaimed music theatre interpretation of JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.
Canberrans can expect to see the Wayfarers busking at various locations in the city, including the Kingston Old Bus Depot Markets, until April.