The Night Parrot’s melody calls to Queensland Music Festival

Amelia Caddy
Published 01 Jul 2019 
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Bush Heritage has partnered with Queensland Music Festival to present the world premiere of The Night Parrot, a musical exploration of the endangered Night Parrot that will bring attention to the elusive bird and its mysterious plight.

The Night Parrot, which will debut in July in the night parrot’s home town of Winton (just down the road from our Pullen Pullen Reserve), is written and composed by Australia’s Jessica Wells.

Despite growing up in cities, Jessica has always been interested in wildlife, so when asked if she wanted to write a classical piece inspired by the call of the Night Parrot, she took to the opportunity.

“In Australia there are so many species of birds and they’re really loud and make a lot of noise, but this little bird is very quiet. I just listened to its call and tried to imagine what it would be like where it lives out in the bush in the spinifex grass with its predators around.”

In a unique chamber performance, the piece will capture the parrot’s story with Mackay-born Soprano Morgan England-Jones and the Acacia Quartet. It will also be underscored by spoken word poetry that explores the role humans have played in the near loss and re-discovery of the parrot. To write this part, Jessica enlisted the help of her father, a retired journalist, to investigate its history. They quickly realised the story is much, much deeper than they had expected.

Around the world, there are a lot of bird people, people who are really interested in bird photography, bird watching, that sort of thing, and finding the Night Parrot became the holy grail who was going to be the first person to find it? If it still existed? The whole story is really quite exciting, and quite dramatic too,”  Jessica said.

The Night Parrot (Pezoporus occidentalis) is a mostly ground-dwelling bird that was feared to be extinct for nearly 100 years. The last living specimen was collected in Western Australia in 1912 and between then and 2013, there were a handful of unconfirmed sightings that created mystery around the return of the elusive bird.

In 2013 naturalist and wildlife photographer John Young captured footage of a live bird in western Queensland, leading Bush Heritage to purchase the land upon which it was sighted to establish the 56,000-hectare Pullen Pullen Reserve.

When asked why she found the Night Parrot’s story so compelling, Jessica said, “with climate change and the landscape being altered all the time by humans, we've almost lost this animal and many more. With the parrot being found and then protected, this particular story shows it's important that we all come together, no matter who we are, as a country. For everyone to come together to protect this bird is an incredible thing.”

The Night Parrot is on at Winton Shire Hall on Wednesday 17 July and at the Cremorne Theatre in Brisbane on Friday 19 July. 

On performing in Winton, Jessica said, “it’s so exciting to perform not just in the city, but out where the bird lives. It is wonderful. I’m bringing my kids because I think it’s super important for them to see this part of Australia and also to bring the story out to where it originated.”

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