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The Singing Hill

Unknown to the dark suits shouting within
The women are returning ...

And the chanting is beginning
The humming has begun

In 1991, Jo Vallentine read a prophetic poem to her fellow Senators about women rediscovering the harmony of the hill singing beneath the Australian Parliament. To most parliamentarians and workers in Parliament House the words by Jo’s visionary Canberra friend Dorothy Cameron probably seemed like far-fetched fantasy. But not in 2021!  

Kurrajong or Capital Hill is a women’s place in Ngambri-Ngunnawal country. And women all over Australia are recognising themselves and the rising spirit of the time in a new Chorus video that brings the story of The Singing Hill into life.  

The story is told by Chorus composer Glenda Cloughley, who was also close to Dorothy Cameron (1917-2002). Glenda said she had read the poem a thousand times in the 25 years since Dorothy gave her a copy.

‘Dorothy told me about writing the poem. She also wondered if I might be able to hear its music,’ Glenda said. ‘With the 2021 March for Justice and the rise and rise of strong women’s journalism about the need to transform parliamentary culture, I decided to set some time aside to listen again.

‘The music was there, waiting for me.  I just had to write it down.  It was more or less all written in half an hour.’  

‘This was a heartening project as we moved through the last lonely weeks of the lockdown’s choral silence into being able to sing together and the lovely collaborations that keep the Chorus alive.’

Janet Salisbury invited Chorus to present The Singing Hill at the Women’s Climate Congress 2021 online national conference. Johanna McBride and Glenda planned the recording with sound engineer Danny Pratt from With Love Records. Jo Vallentine agreed to read the poem for the recording. Johanna, Glenda and Meg Rigby workshopped the choral parts. Visual artist Sally Blake began attending music sessions, listening for the images she would make from original drawings and photographs to incorporate in the video. There was much joy in Chorus with Johanna leading rehearsals, first with masks and then without. Janet and Glenda had conversations about Kurrajong (Capital) Hill with Matilda House, senior Ngambri-Ngunnawal elder. Danny recorded the Chorus and made the magical soundscape. Sally bound the sound and visual elements together in the beautiful video.

The premiere screening was to a receptive, grateful online audience of 200+ women during the first day of the National Congress of Women organised by the Women’s Climate Congress on 30 November. You can read the poem here.


Love Has a Voice - for Afghanistan in 2021

... You are not alone, we're singing with you
We hear your voice. Hey, that's our song too!
All around the Earth the women are humming
and the song of the Spring is rising

If they hurt you Malalai, they will not kill your voice
You're a song of the women in every place
They can cut the flower, but they can never stop the Spring
The buds are opening in our gardens too ...

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 this month, 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.

A Chorus of Women directed by Meg Rigby

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 sing for peace through the power of love
Hear the wisdom of women, hear our song.

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 17 August 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.

A Chorus of Women commenting on the next election

Just in time for the next Australian Election — A Chorus of Women calls 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.

Vale Bob Hawke

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