The Night Parrot
Music and conservation unite to tell the enchanting story of one of the world's most elusive birds.
Work with Bush Heritage Australia to develop an innovative, artistic approach to fundraising, building philanthropic interest and general awareness of the enigmatic, endangered “Night Parrot”—thought extinct for almost a century.
QMF commissioned renowned composer Jessica Wells, who worked with her father, librettist Jeff Wells, to create a haunting operatic exploration of this almost-lost piece of Australian natural history. The resulting commission, The Night Parrot, received its world premiere in the outback town of Winton in July 2019, and was attended by a range of philanthropists, conservationists, art lovers, and community members. The project used music’s emotional reach to engage new and existing stakeholders and supporters.
For nearly a century, the Australian night parrot was believed to be extinct… that is, until 2013, when the species was sighted nestled amongst the spinifex in outback Queensland’s Diamantina National Park. Setting her composition to a bush ballad-style libretto by Jeff Wells, Jessica Wells traced the remarkable quest to bring a native species back from the edge of extinction: an exploration, she says, “of the human endeavour that had almost destroyed this little bird, but has now saved it.”
The Night Parrot represented an extraordinary collaboration between organisations with very distinct missions, fusing art and science to spark a conversation about the potential of the arts in addressing our most pressing scientific and environmental challenges.
Many of us will never sit on the hill at Pullen Pullen Reserve at sunset, gazing over the spinifex and hearing the critically endangered bird’s distinctive call; so to be able to bring the Night Parrot to life through music – and in Queensland – was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.Heather Campbell, Bush Heritage Australia CEO
The marrying of science and art is a fascinating concept… The great work that has been done by scientists and organisations such as Bush Heritage to protect what we have and conserve our endangered species is crucial, and the Night Parrot serves as a totem of sorts to represent what we almost lost, and could lose again if we don’t fight to keep it.Jessica Wells, Composer
A big thank you to Queensland Music Festival for bringing the world premiere of The Night Parrot to the Winton Shire Hall … We were treated to a spectacular performance!Audience Member, Winton World Premiere of The Night Parrot
Harnessing a productive synergy between art, conservation, and community, the project demonstrated the way in which Queensland’s natural environments are inextricably interlinked with our cultures and histories. Fostering the unique cultural identity of the outback town of Winton, the project combined artistic excellence and scientific understanding to bring new meaning—and increased philanthropic attention—to this little-known story and the important work of Bush Heritage Australia.
The work was professionally recorded by ABC Classic and is available now to buy and stream.