Final compositions – depicting refugee journeys in music

The term ended at the Language School with the usual performances of the children’s compositions, and with a special event for Refugee Week at Federation Square. I say ‘usual’, but don’t want to downplay it – as always, there is something quite extraordinarily moving about these children singing to their peers about their experiences, in a language they are only just getting to grips with. It is incredibly moving.

Two classes performed at the Refugee Week event. Middle Primary had a set of pieces in three parts, that was a kind of musical time capsule, describing key events in their journeys from their countries of origin to Australia.

You can listen to it here:

Their opening song was jaunty and upbeat:

From Afghanistan to Islamabad, From Afghanistan to Islamabad.

Car to Grandma, car to plane. Leipzig to Frankfurt and Singapore

We waited… 2 hours, We waited… 4 hours! We waited… 8 hours! WE WAITED 16 HOURS!!

So sleepy my dad had to carry me.

This last line was sung in 2-part harmony and as it faded away the children began to whisper to the audience the amount of time their own journey to Australia had taken – from between 11 hours and many days’ travel!

They then segued straight into a 2-part chant, depicting their first day at Language School, when they are surrounded by information and questions, all coming at them in a language they don’t understand. The chorus was accompanied by unison, universal gestures of frustration:

WHAT should I do now? WHERE should I go now?

My head is going CRAZY on the first day!

They then moved to percussion instruments, and played an instrumental piece that was composed using some of the pitch exercises I had introduced them to at the start of term. The instrumental music served as an introduction to a song about The Things They Miss. Every time they sang the chorus, I would get a lump in my throat. They sang with such open hearts, and such sincerity, and such a strong sense of ownership of their music.

Now I miss the rain. Now I miss the snow. Now I miss the warm. The hot, hot, hot, hot days.

German bread and sausages. My friends and next door neighbours.

I came here from a village. I came here from the city.

(Chorus)

Two dogs, three cats and Grandma, My house, my garden, Grandpa.

Uncles, cousins, friends from school, I miss them all,

I miss – them – all.

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