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  • Writer's pictureKate Reid

SOLANDER, finally.

Updated: Aug 29, 2022

At last! On Saturday 12th February, 2022 the performance of my song cycle, SOLANDER finally took place.

The event, originally planned to take place in November 2020, had been postponed more than once due to circumstances completely out of our control!

Nevertheless, it has been a fascinating journey. I really should thank the pandemic for giving me the extra time to re write quite a bit of the work which forced new ideas to emerge.

Sydney Chamber Choir under the direction of Sam Allchurch rose to new heights. The wonderful, John Gaden delivered the narrative with such sensitivity and gentle nuance. He held the audience in the palm of his hand.

It was performed at a new venue in Moore Park, Sydney called The Governors Centre which was built in the grounds of Sydney Boys’ and Girls’ Schools.

I hope soon to be able to put some audio from the night on my SoundCloud site.

In the meantime, check out these photos and review from Limelight Magazine below!

Kate x

Photos by Sally Manning

Sam Allchurch and choir

Beautiful program designed by Teya Shannon from Friends Of Studio

This project is supported by the NSW Government through Create NSW.

Two different portraits of Daniel Solander (Sydney Chamber Choir + The Marais Project) Two different visions of Daniel Solander, Australia's first Swede. Harriet Cunningham on 22 February, 2022

Solander: a song cycle for choir, vibraphone and narrator

Sydney Chamber Choir

The Fantastical Life of Daniel Solander, Australia’s first Swede

The Marais Project Australian Digital Concert Hall February 17

Daniel Solander was a brilliant Swedish scholar who accompanied Sir Joseph Banks, gentleman botanist, on board the 1770 voyage of the Endeavour, under the captainship of Lieutenant James Cook. Solander was the first Swede to set foot on Terra Australis Incognita, and to circumnavigate the world. His life has been commemorated in the last week by two concerts: the first performance of Kate Reid’s song cycle Solander, and the Marais Project’s Fantastical Life of Daniel Solander, live streamed from Sydney by the Australian Digital Concert Hall.

While both shows took their inspiration from this oft-forgotten figure in history, their music charted different paths. The Marais Project brought together a series of songs, dances and sonatas derived from Solander’s time, adapted by Tommie Andersson and the musicians of the Marais into an evocative mix of folksong and poetry. Singer and violinist Susie Bishop was a key part of this, shifting effortlessly between the worlds of folk and art music, adding in a radiant melisma here, a grungy drone there. The contrast between the robust twangs of Swedish folk song and the polite, idealised harmony of Isaac Nathan’s songs The Aboriginal Mother and The Aboriginal Father was particularly poignant.

Another treat was hearing Tommie Andersson play a sonata for guitar by Swedish composer Johan Wikmanson on a 5-course guitar made in France in 1770. It sounded as fresh as today. Narrator Robert Snarrs brought the expedition to life with extracts from the diaries of James Cook and Joseph Banks, intermingled with twenty-first century hindsight written by Philip Pogson.

Meanwhile, Kate Reid’s Solander offered different discoveries, including the use of a brand new theatre, the Governor’s Centre, on the grounds of Sydney Boys’ High School. Sydney Chamber Choir battled the venue’s dry acoustic, but the soloists rose out of the mix with bell-like clarity. Meanwhile Brett Summerell, Director and Chief Botanist at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney, and narrator John Gaden gave a detailed portrait of this fascinating character to complement the imaginative arc of Reid’s music.

Daniel Solander gives his name to Cape Solander in Botany Bay, the Solander Islands off New Zealand’s South Island, the Solander Box, a method for preserving prints, drawings and samples still used by libraries and archives and, not least, the Daniel Solander Library in the Royal Botanic Gardens, Australia’s oldest botanical research library. And now he is commemorated in music.

Photo by Sandy Sharp

In front of Sydney Chamber Choir members, L to R: Rodney Fisher writer, Claire Edwardes vibraphone, Sam Allchurch conductor, me. A happy moment!

John Gaden narrating Photo by Sally Manning


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