Matthew Hindson’s Maralinga for violin and string orchestra will receive its European premiere on 14 October 2013 at the Union Chapel, London. The piece is being performed at the centre of the Maralinga Lament programme that is being presented by London’s all-Australian orchestra, Ruthless Jabiru, and guest soloist, Lara St. John. The Canadian violinist premiered the original version of Maralinga (for violin and piano) in 2009, and the orchestral version was commissioned by her together with the Australian Chamber Orchestra, who toured together throughout Australia in 2011. The concert will be conducted by Kelly Lovelady, who chose the programme “to evoke the loss and the chemical strangeness which has become a part of that landscape”.

The Australian aboriginal word Maralinga may sound quite beautiful to people outside of Australia, but to Australians its connotations are much more sinister. In the early 1950s, the nuclear arms race was underway amongst the major nations of the world. Great Britain wanted to test its recently acquired nuclear weapons, and Australia in the 1950s was a place that still regarded Britain as ‘home’ (particularly the Australian Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies). Consequently secret nuclear testing was conducted in the South Australian desert, at Maralinga and Emu Creek between 1953-1963. Tests included some very nasty experiments with kilograms of plutonium which subsequently contaminated the test site. Unfortunately, according to a subsequent Royal Commission into the tests, it seems that the welfare of the aboriginal inhabitants and the Australian service personnel at the test sites was never taken into account. Australian military personnel were used as unwitting guinea pigs into the effects of radiation from these experiments. Maralinga was officially cleaned up by the year 2000, but the site and its history remains a stain upon Australia’s historical record. Hindson’s piece makes reference to the long Aboriginal history at Maralinga as well as more recent events and attitudes.

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