Celestial emu - narrated by Tim Page

Celestial Emu is a multimedia symphony, combining Australian indigenous song, story-telling and dance, orchestra, choir and scientific presentation.

10 May 2023


THIS multimedia symphony is based on the observations of the annual cycle of the Celestial Emu (the dark spaces in the Milky Way) and how it has encouraged songs, traditions and dances of nations who have lived on this continent for generations. The annual cycle is a metaphor for life itself, with birth, maturation, decay and renewal an ever-present phenomenon for all living creatures and this work takes this cycle as a basis for framing relevant stories, songs and, where possible, dances.


The work is in five parts and begins with a call to country, connecting land and sky, sung by a women’s choir, girls’ choir (all female to reflect the association of the Emu with the mother) and orchestra. In January/February, in the early evening, the Emu in the Sky has yet to fully emerge but in April/May the Emu is now higher and can be seen at full length. It appears to be running, reflecting the behaviour of the terrestrial females, who chase the males during the mating season. Emu eggs are soon plentiful for collection and eating.


In June/July, the legs disappear and the Emu, which is now seen as male, is sitting on its nest, hatching the new chicks. And in late winter, August to September, the neck of the Emu becomes indistinct in the sky, leaving the body to represent an emu egg. This indicates that the emu chicks are hatching and eggs are no longer available for collection and eating. As the male emu hatches and raises the chicks, so the elders nurture the young male initiates. The head of the Emu is still visible in the sky and, together with the body, appears to form a large and small ring, which may be representative of the small and large bora rings that are laid out on the ground for initiation ceremonies.


In late Spring, around November, the Emu is once again transformed and is now low on the horizon. The neck and head are difficult to see and the body seems to be ‘sitting’. It is believed that the emu is now sitting in a waterhole which, after spring rains, are full of water. Then, over summer, the waterholes are dry and the terrestrial emu must continually wander, searching for water.


Celestial Emu was inspired by and is dedicated to ‘Ghillar’ Michael Anderson, Kamilaroi Law Man without whom this work would not have been conceived let alone written. His guidance, always open and inspirational, was essential to the construction of the concept of an annual cycle and his contribution to our national knowledge is immeasurable. His stories may be heard in Eleanor Gilbert’s film Star Stories of the Dreaming, which will also be shown at this concert, with music played live by Symphony Central Coast. Celestial Emu and Star Stories of the Dreaming is part of the 5 Lands Walk weekend, a three day gathering celebrating the physical, spiritual and cultural journey that is the 10km walk along the spectacular coastline that links five villages on the NSW Central Coast. The aim of the walk is to connect people to people, and people to place and the walk itself is held on the Saturday closest to the winter solstice.


When: Sunday, 25 June 2023, 2.30pm


Where: Central Coast Grammar School, Arundel Road, Erina Heights


Tickets: - Adults $45; Concession $40; Child $20

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