Port Arthur - Suite for Wind Band (score and parts)

Title: Port Arthur - Suite for Wind Band (score and parts)

Composer: Fran Griffin

Genre: Wind ensemble

Level: Grade 5

Duration: 19'40"

Scoring: score, picc, fl 1-2, ob 1-2, cor ang, bsn 1-2, eb cl, cl 1-2-3, b/cl 1-2, s/sx, a/sx 1-2, t/sx, b/sx, hn 1-2-3-4, tpt 1-2-3, tbn 1-2, euph (b/c), tba, dbl bs, timp, chimes & crash cymbal

Notes: Today’s world is becoming increasingly violent, particularly with relation to guns. There will always be those who become so disturbed, either by personal adversity, social marginalisation, mental illness or political and religious fanaticism, that they feel the need to kill. Guns and automatic weapons make it very easy to inflict maximum damage in a short time. Without these weapons the crimes of these people would be hugely diminished. This work aims to highlight the folly of allowing ordinary citizens to own high powered weapons, by describing an historic mass shooting that occurred in a place already scarred with a tragic and brutal history. Port Arthur, situated on the south-east coast of the Australian state of Tasmania, lies in a magnificent wilderness characterised by majestic forests and spectacular scenery. The coastline is continually battered by the huge seas of the Southern Ocean and as a result is very rugged, with high cliffs, caves, blow-holes and unusual rock formations. Port Arthur’s isolated position made it an ideal location for a British convict settlement. Escape was almost impossible, as the only access to the site was by sea. The prisoners sent here, from 1833 to 1877, were those who were deemed to have reoffended after being sent to Australia, and as such were considered the worst of all convicts. Conditions were indescribably harsh and cruel. Prisoners were forced to work at logging, stone cutting and other forms of arduous labour, working very long hours in dangerous conditions with meagre food rations and minimal equipment. Discipline was brutal, flogging and other forms of torture were common for even the smallest misdemeanours, and prisoners were often subjected to solitary confinement in the dark for long periods, resulting in insanity for many. Convicts frequently died from untreated illness and injury, accidents, murder, the results of overly harsh punishments, and all too often, suicide. Those who escaped, if not recaptured, generally died in the bush or were forced to return due to lack of food.

Port Arthur – The Convict Years depicts the hardship and violence of the lives of the convicts and the soldiers assigned to guard them, set against the backdrop of natural beauty of the location. The Irish folk song Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania was known as Van Diemen’s Land in the 1830s) is quoted to highlight the desperation, loneliness, suffering and hopelessness felt by those imprisoned. After Port Arthur was abandoned as a prison in 1877, it fell into disrepair. Early in the 20th century it began to attract attention as a tourist destination, and by 1979 work had begun on restoration and showcasing the ruins as an historic site. It has become a much visited location.

Port Arthur – 28 April 1996 illustrates the mass shooting that occurred on that date. An armed man drove to a guesthouse near the historic site, shooting and stabbing the owner and his wife. The man then drove to the Broad Arrow Cafe at Port Arthur, bought lunch and ate it. He then opened fire with a semi-automatic weapon on patrons of the crowded cafe and adjoining gift shop, the car park, the entrance gates to the Port Arthur site, moving on to a petrol station and eventually back to the guest house. There were 35 people killed that afternoon, with a further 23 injured, some seriously. The killer was eventually apprehended after setting fire to the guest house. He remains in prison and will never be released. Depicted in the music is the mass panic, as people realised that the gunshots were not part of a historic re-enactment and ran into the surrounding bushland, the uneasy calm at times when the gunman seemed to have stopped shooting, a woman forced to her knees to plead unsuccessfully for her life and those of her two daughters, an attempt by the killer to drag another woman from a car but being confronted by her partner, leading to both their deaths. After this atrocity, and a mass shooting in Dunblane, Scotland only a few weeks prior to the Port Arthur shooting, the governments of both Australia and UK amended their gun ownership laws. Australia has had no mass shootings since Port Arthur.

Port Arthur – For Those We Lost is a hymn for the victims, not only of the tragedies of Port Arthur occurring in two centuries, but of all mass shootings. In this movement we hear a chime for each of the 35 Port Arthur victims. More importantly, the music expresses the hope that the world might become a place in which individuals have no perceived need or desire to own guns, and where schools are places of learning rather than fortresses, and where people can live without fear of attack. 

(c) 2020 Frances Griffin

GRI202001 Licensed Print Music Edition (c) 2020 Maestros With a Mission Pty Ltd