Aurora Australis sails to icy symphony

Aurora Australis
Aurora Australis (Photo: Doug Thost)
Gordon HamiltonConductor and pianist in concert

A symphony celebrating Australia’s Antarctic icebreaker, RSV Aurora Australis, will be composed on board the iconic ship this summer.

Leading Australian composer and conductor, Gordon Hamilton, will sail south from Hobart to Australia’s Casey research station in December.

Mr Hamilton is best known for his innovative collaborations such as ‘Thum Prints’, between beatboxer Tom Thum and the Queensland Symphony Orchestra.

Mr Hamilton will compose the Aurora Symphony on his four week voyage.

“The 20-minute orchestral work will capture the essence of the icebreaker, as well as the sounds, energy and landscape of Antarctica,” Mr Hamilton said.

“While on board I will record the sounds of the ship, its engines and the ice. Then at Casey station, I’ll capture the ambient noise of wildlife and wind, and incorporate all these into the composition.”

“The three movements of the symphony will be unified by recurring musical motifs and I’ll aim to evoke the beauty, power, clarity and colour of the Aurora Australis and this unique part of the planet.”

The premiere of the work will be shared by three orchestras - The Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and The London Mozart Players.

2019 will mark the 30th year since the ship was launched, becoming the backbone of the Australian Antarctic Program.

Over three decades the Aurora Australis has carried more than 13,000 expeditioners across the Southern Ocean on 140 research and resupply voyages.

The Aurora Australis was launched in Newcastle in September 1989 and undertook its first voyage with the Australian Antarctic Program to Heard Island in 1990.

While it hasn’t all been plain sailing in the extreme Southern Ocean environment, expeditioners have fond memories of both adversity and adventure, of friendships and collaborations forged, and the unique role the ship has played in their life and work.

“It’s a privilege to be able to pay homage to this iconic ship ahead of its retirement from the Australian Antarctic Program,” Mr Hamilton said.

Australia’s new icebreaker, RSV Nuyina, is due to arrive in Hobart in 2020.