Jessie Lloyd's Mission by Myles McGuire
The legacy of Queensland’s Mission Era is one of immense pain and dislocation for Aboriginal people. Taken from their homes and placed into the custody of the state, generations of Indigenous Australians were severed from their traditions and culture, and with very little record-keeping from their perspective, this tragedy is at risk of being lost to history. For composer and producer Jessie Lloyd, this was the impetus for her work on Mission Songs Project—a project dedicated to recovering the secular music performed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Missions.
“These songs are precious first-hand accounts from people’s family members or community members from the past,” Lloyd says. “The songs show their emotions, ideas and hopes during the mission days, and also provide an opportunity for our old people to have a voice when they couldn’t have one.”
In arranging these pieces for Queensland Music Festival, Lloyd was determined to preserve the original compositions as much as possible. Traveling widely and speaking with various communities in her attempts to recover the pieces, she began to assemble a vision of life in the missions that might be told through song to a contemporary audience.
“When presenting these songs to a modern audience I try to present in a very authentic and historical way, keeping to original instrumentations, vocal arrangement styles and even rhythms,’ Lloyd explains. ‘As a cultural practitioner it is important for me to make sure these songs are given life and have the opportunity to be valued as cultural assets.”
Instrumental to the development of the project has been Archie Roach, the iconic Australian musician who brought the plight of the Stolen Generations to the attention of the international community with his 1990 ballad Took the Children Away. It is for this reason Jessie will be opening for Archie’s Let Love Rule performance with Mission Songs Project, at the culmination of the project’s tour this year. The union of these powerful artistic perspectives to give voice to those ignored or supressed by history is an overdue opportunity to learn, and above all, to listen.
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