April marked the West Australian Symphony Orchestra’s return to the incredible Karijini Experience as part of WASO on the Road touring.

Karijini Experience wows local and international guests as WA’s premier cultural event

April marked the West Australian Symphony Orchestra’s return to the incredible Karijini Experience as part of WASO on the Road touring.

Western Australia’s Minister for Tourism, Hon. Paul Papalia CSC MLA said “the Karijini Experience is WA’s premier cultural event, and the West Australian Symphony Orchestra accompanied by Aboriginal opera singer Deborah Cheetham in the Kalamina Gorge was a highlight.”

Established in 2013 with the inaugural Karijini Dinner Experience, attended by just 75 guests, the event has since grown to a thriving annual multi-arts event. In 2018, it attracted 1640 visitors and featured 180 artists and this year included everything from cultural awareness workshops to bush walks and yoga.

WASO’s string quartet comprising of Assistant Concertmaster Semra Lee-Smith, Principal 2nd Violin Zak Rowntree, Elliot O’Brien (viola) and Nick Metcalfe (cello) travelled to the Pilbara for three very special performances as part of the event, including the premiere of Koorlangka written by award-winning musicians Gina Williams and Guy Ghouse.


Koorlangka makes premiere with WASO string quartet, keeping the Noongar language alive through music

Koorlangka is described as “a modern take on ancient music”, with all songs performed in Noongar language. A one hour suite of lullabies and traditional stories exploring the theme of children and legacy, these thought provoking and beautiful works delighted everyone in their debut in this beautiful location. With the quartet performing alongside Gina, Guy and Russell Holmes (piano), who was additionally responsible for the exquisite arrangements of the works, a large number of these songs were inspired by the visit Gina and Guy made to last year’s Karijini Experience.

Koorlangka will be further developed and performed as part of a variety of programs with WASO’s Education Chamber Orchestra in October and November and then an incredible full symphony orchestra performance as part of the 2020 Perth Festival.

We would love to share more of our journey alongside the evolution of Koorlangka and the exciting developments across chamber and full orchestra performances. Stay up to date with all of our activities by joining our SymphonEnews list here or follow us on Facebook.

WASO strings support sublime soprano

WASO’s string quartet also joined internationally renowned Aboriginal soprano, composer and educator Deborah Cheetham AO, tenor Matthew Reardon and pianist Philippa Safey for Opera in the Gorge. This predominately Puccini program was a wonderful opportunity to reunite with Deborah after our inaugural 2018 performance at Karijini, which was followed by the quartet travelling to Singapore for the launch of Woven Song, Embassy Tapestry Project. The latest international project by Short Black Opera, the project features nine new compositions by Deborah Cheetham AO, and celebrates works of art from an ancient culture, reinterpreted and recreated by the exceptional weavers at the Australian Tapestry Workshop, inspiring a contemporary response in current classical music practice. WASO’s string quartet is one of three Australian ensembles alongside the Plexus and Rubiks Collectives to be part of this exciting undertaking.

Presented to intimate audiences, these spine-tingling concerts were performed on an ancient stage like no other with the natural acoustics of Kalamina Gorge, audiences were blown away by the sheer beauty of these unique events.  Both events showcased the power of song, from traditional opera through to contemporary works in Noongar language.

For Zak Rowntree there was one stand-out difference with this year’s performance, “We perform in this beautiful gorge. I’ve done it for the last few years and love coming back. For the first time ever, in history I think, a string quartet has played wearing fly masks.”

Opera in the Gorge Photo credit: Base Imagery

The 2019 Karijini Experience was held on the traditional lands of the Banjima people in Karijini National Park. We respectfully acknowledge the Banjima people, their Elders past, present and emerging and their families.  The Banjima people also have close associations with Eastern Guruma, Yinhawangka and Nyiyaparli Pilbara language groups, and we thank them all for welcoming us to their Lands to be part of this beautiful event. 

Attending for our third consecutive year, our thanks to Karijini Experience and the Nintirri Centre for the continued invitation to return, and very much look forward to what next year will bring.

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