Program Notes: Bakery Hill Rising


Throughout 1981, the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery presented a series of concerts of Australian music. Behind bullet-proof glass there lie the tattered remnants of the Eureka Flag, that sky-blue ensign, exceedingly chaste and natural which flew high above the stockade on Bakery Hill, during the goldminers’ uprising of December 1854.

Invited to create a fanfare to open this series, I decided to compose something which reflected on that singular event which carried Ballarat into history. When I learned that it would be an all-Grainger program featuring my friend David Stanhope, French horn player then, as well as Grainger buff and tape-recorder enthusiast, I knew that this could be no mere self-congratulatory fanfare. It would combine aspects of Ballarat’s history, the French horn and Percy Grainger.

Bakery Hill Rising, then, is scored for solo French horn and eight other horns, either live or pre-recorded, laid out in the formation of the stars in the Southern Cross. It begins as Grainger’s The Duke of Marlborough Fanfare, slowly transformed into the folksong Freedom on the Wallaby, in a way that I hope is reminiscent of both Percy Grainger and Charles Ives, then the two most important influences on my music.

Bakery Hill Rising was first performed by David Stanhope in Ballarat in April 1981. Since then, it has become my most-performed composition, performed the world over, but always with the Eureka Flag flying in the background. It is the first in a series of works for solo instruments and multiples of the same instrument, many of which reflect on Australia’s aspirations for the inevitable Republic.

Copyright Vincent Plush, 2001