Pemulwuy was first commissioned by the Woden Valley Youth Choir under the direction of Alpha Gregory, and made it’s world premier just near Parliament House in Canberra in 2006. The piece has become one of Australia’s all time favourite and important choral works. The Birralee Blokes won the ABC choir of the year award singing a rousing version of Pemulwuy which has gone on to inspire the National Male Voice Festival of the same name. Now, every two years, hundreds of men and boys gather together with pride to sing this piece. It has also been sung in events and festivals throughout Europe and the USA.
Pemulwuy was born approximately 1756 somewhere near where Homebush Bay is now. He belongs to the Bidjigal Clan of the Eora nation. The city of Sydney is built upon his land. The initial creation of Sydney took place during the last fourteen years of Pemulwuy’s life. “The legend of Pemulwuy is part of the belief system and oral history of the Aboriginal people of east coast Australia. It is also part of the history of all modern Australians.” (Eric Willmot)
Pemulwuy means ‘man of the earth’ and he is known as the Rainbow Warrior. His totem was the crow. From 1790 to his death in 1802, Pemulwuy led the Eora people in a major response to the British invasion of Australia. The Aboriginal resistance ‘was said to be broken’ in 1805, when Pemulwuy’s son, Tedbury was captured and became the first Australian prisoner of war. This resistance, and indeed Pemulwuy’s very existence was mostly disregarded in records made at the time. To this day, little is said of Pemulwuy in history books.
Pemulwuy witnessed the destruction of the Eora world. His campaign against the invading British lasted 12 years, but his strongest enemy was in fact disease, which wiped out many Indigenous people. Pemulwuy’s life was taken during a simple ambush. Pemulwuy’s head was place in a jar and sent to England aboard the ship, Speedy. To this day it has not been returned, but in recent years attempts by the Royal Family and Sydney Elders have been made to bring Pemulwuy back home.
This piece is dedicated to Eric Willmot for his novel ‘Pemulwuy’.
Chris Kiver conducting the finale of the Pemulwuy Male Voice Festival 2011
Sample recording from ABC Choir of the Year the Birralee Blokes, conducted by Paul Holley
PLEASE NOTE THAT the SATB listed is SSATB and the SSATB is a SSATTB. A SATB is coming soon. Thank you
For a TTBB + Treble arrangement, please see Pemulwuy with Treble.