In October, the Sydney Chamber Choir presents Behold – the Sea!, a concert devised by leading choral conductor Jonathan Grieves-Smith, which takes audiences on a journey from maritime disaster to epic adventure and island magic. The program includes, among other pieces, Jaakko Mäntyjärvi’s requiem to the hundreds drowned in the 1994 sinking of the passenger ferry Estonia; Cecilia McDowall’s homage to Harriet Quimby, the first woman to fly across the English Channel; Peter Sculthorpe’s song tribute to James Cook’s voyage to follow the transit of Venus, The stars turn; Dan Walker’s piece about Alice Eather, the young Maningrida teacher and activist who took her life last year; and In paradisumby Latvian composer Ēriks Ešenvalds. Here Grieves-Smith explains how and why he programmed the concert.

Jonathan Grieves-Smith. Photograph supplied

In the West’s hierarchical values, the depths of the seas are parallel to the great deserts, deserted places, places abandoned by God, man and fauna, places without life, without hope. And yet, these ‘empty’ places were where one might finally lose the frailty and limitation of mortal body and human discourse, and in doing so perceive, however partially, the simplicity and greatness of God.

Abandoning all...

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