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On 18 March 2003, A Chorus of Women was born when a ‘flash mob’ of 150 Canberra women sang a Lament for the people of Iraq, written just 4 days earlier by Glenda Cloughley (words) and Judith Clingan (music). The Lament was sung in the foyer of Parliament House as John Howard rose in the Chamber to announce Australia was joining the invasion of Iraq. This group of women who had never sung together before became a national and international media event when the ABC 7.30 Report that night led their report about the Iraq War with our singing (see the video clip on our home page). More recently the music of Lament has been used to express our grief about the destructive impacts of climate change.
20 years later, on Tuesday 21 March at 12.30pm, we returned to Parliament House, this time with permission and encouragement from politicians and Parliamentary staff, We sang our original Lament again and added a new verse. The women called to all present to make our promise to the Earth and to future generations. A People's Chorus of around 100, including politicians, and members of the public, men and women responded, affirming this commitment.
Here is an interview with Barbie Robinson from Living Arts Canberra and here is a Canberra Times article from 18 March 2023.
Here you can see a report on the ABC evening news. Also read this article in the RiotACT featuring a YouTube clip and an interview with Glenda Cloughley, who initiated the original Lament.
Go to our EVENT PAGE to read the song lyrics and stories about the songs we presented. A full video of our singing at Parliament House will be available soon.
The photo says it all! A Chorus of Women were delighted to win the 2022 ACT Chief Minister’s Rotary Peace Prize … and completely surprised.
With no foreknowledge that we were to receive the award, we had gathered at the Canberra Rotary Peace Bell to sing for the International Day of Peace, as we do each year.
The Chorus was described as ‘an incredibly deserving recipient’ of the Peace Prize by the Chief Minister’s representative, Kareena Arthy. She said we had ‘encouraged integrity, compassion, respect and humanity’ on hundreds of public occasions as we perform our original songs and spoken texts.
All the speakers recalled A Chorus of Women’s beginning on 18 March 2003, when 150 Canberra women filled the foyer of the Australian Parliament with a song of Lament for the people of Iraq as Australia’s intention to invade Iraq was announced by prime minister John Howard.
Perhaps the most moving of spontaneous responses to the award came from Iraqi Ambassador Dr Bassim Altomma. The Ambassador leapt to his feet on hearing that 150 Canberra women had sung a Lament for his people in the Australian Parliament as the Government announced it was going to war against Iraq in 2003. Speaking of his immense gratitude, he asked to ring the Peace Bell with us.
Canberra MP Alicia Payne said the Peace Prize was a fantastic and well-deserved award for the Chorus. ‘Your beautiful advocacy through song has been such an important part of so many key issues in this community she said. ‘Throughout history, small acts of courage and conviction have created ripples of hope and change the world for the better – like getting through the security of Parliament House to sing a song,’
Responding to the Peace Prize for the Chorus, Glenda Cloughley said the passions that have impelled Chorus action and music-making for nearly 20 years were peace, climate change, species extinction, expanding refugee crises and the horrific impacts of war on women and children. ‘We sing for peace in the world the grandchildren of our grand-daughters will inherit,’ she said.
Recalling the Lament for the people of Iraq, Glenda said, ‘In our action on 18 March 2003, we discovered that we had sung a song that was already in people’s hearts, like the longing for peace always is’.
Writing in Canberra online newspaper RiotACT, Genevieve Jacobs recalled the beginning of Chorus as a ‘songful act of sabotage’.
All three Chorus songs during the ceremony reflect the power of music to connect people.
Listen to our new recording of A Recipe for Peace by Glenda Cloughley.
Heiwa Heiwa Peace was being sung at the Berlin Peace Bell in songwriter Elke Bitterhof’s hometown as the Chorus sang our Sue Hoffmann’s English lyrics at the Canberra bell:
May the sound of all peace bells unite us
To sing up our common resolve
We loved singing Johanna McBride’s three-part choral backing for Mr Circle with singer-songwriter-diplomat Fred Smith, who won the 2021 Rotary Peace Prize. Written during his diplomatic post on Bougainville, Mr Circle is part of the success story of the world-first unarmed international peace-keeping operation after years of war on the island. (See Bougainville Sky for the 2004 film about Fred’s work.)
Other winners of the ACT Chief Minister’s Rotary Peace Prize at the ceremony were David Savage, former AFP Policeman and AusAID worker, Robyn Martin – Manager Beryl Women Inc. and 2018 winners, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.
Damian Cardona Onses, Director of the United Nations Information Centre in Canberra, read the annual Peace Day Message of United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres.
Japanese Ambassador Shingo Yamagami spoke of the origin in Hiroshima of peace bells around the world. Referring to present threats of nuclear war against Ukraine, he said ‘It seems that now, more than any other time in the recent past, the global community must act to ensure that the tragedy that befell Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 – the hundreds of thousands of deaths resulting from the bombs themselves and their lingering radiation - are never, ever repeated’.
Just in time for the next Australian Election — A Chorus of Women called for the kind of politicians citizens crave!Funny thing is Glenda Cloughley wrote the song six federal elections ago. The occasion then was a Chorus gig to encourage good women to stand for political office.
These words are from our song 'Love Has a Voice', which is dedicated to the women and girls of Afghanistan. With the Taliban's terrifying return to power in 2021 they are singing from all Chorus hearts to our Afghani sisters, including those who live in Australia and fear for loved ones in that war-torn country.
A Chorus of Women sang 'Love Has a Voice' to 28-year-old Afghan MP Malalai Joya at a moving 2007 UNIFEM Australia International Women's Day gathering in Canberra attended by 850 people.
... We sing for peace through the power of love
Malalai Joya had survived numerous Taliban assassination attempts by the time she visited Australia. Songwriter Glenda Cloughley was inspired by Malalai's statement: 'They can cut the flower, but they can never stop the Spring'.
We sang 'Love Has a Voice' for the people of Afghanistan four years after Chorus began with our 'Lament' for the people of Iraq. The song incorporates the 'Lament'.
We send our deep appreciation and support to all educators of Afghani girls and women, human rights defenders and journalists.
You can read the full lyrics and hear the song here. Here is a link to a August 2021 essay by Nobel Peace Laureate Malala Yousafzai, who became an international advocate for girls' education after she was shot in the head by the Taliban in 2012 on her way home from school.
In A Chorus of Women we recall fondly the former Prime Minister joining the cast of 80 Canberra citizens in Old Parliament House for Closing Night of our 2010 Floriade Festival production of The Gifts of the Furies. In front of a packed House of Representatives, Bob Hawke delivered the verdict in the trial we staged between The Furies of Earth and Lord Reason, with Ethos presiding. The trial scene is the centrepiece of The Gifts of the Furies, which our composer Glenda Cloughley based on The Eumenides, a Greek tragedy from 458 BCE whose happy ending follows the people's commitment to compassionate justice and harmony with the Earth. Bob Hawke loved the big story-song, declaring in an impromptu speech afterwards that ‘the environment is the Number One issue for me.' Read more about our performances of The Gifts of the Furies.
See Bob Hawke’s impromptu speech and his cameo role in the House he led as Prime Minister from 1983.
The performance video concludes with The Promise sung to Gaia by the Chorus of Citizens.
See excerpts of The Gifts of the Furies 2010