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Ambon by Lloyd Swanton
Lloyd Swanton’s uncle Stuart Swanton was one of some 1,200 men sent as part of Gull Force to the island of Ambon (in present-day Indonesia) in late 1941, in a vain attempt to defend it from a vastly-superior Japanese invading force.
With no choice but to surrender, Stuart and his mates were then held captive on Ambon for the next three and a half years in one of the worst prison camps of the entire Asia/Pacific theatre.
Like the majority of his POW mates, Stuart Swanton did not survive. But he kept a secret diary in a coded shorthand, which was brought back to Australia after the war, and is the only substantial surviving diary written by a soldier on Ambon.
Lloyd Swanton has drawn on numerous musical elements referenced in his uncle’s diary to create a diverse and moving suite of music for a twelve-piece ensemble which brings meaning and life to the Ambon story.
Jazz, military marches, work song, island music, gospel, spoken word and visual imagery are all recruited to the task of reanimating the tragedy; shining a light on an aspect of Australia's World War II history that is all too little known. Stuart Swanton's own viola is used throughout the work, in its first public appearance since the 1930s.
Reviews of Ambon's premiere performance were glowing. The Sydney Morning Herald called it "an extraordinary achievement", and "a conceptual and compositional triumph”.
Ambon is available, through Bugle Records, as a superb two-CD album with a 36-page booklet.
Street One - reserved | Duration - 120 minutes incl. interval.
A CJP Presentation
Lloyd Swanton – double bass
Paul Cutlan - bass clarinet, saxophones, recorder
Sandy Evans - tenor and soprano saxophones
James Greening - trombone, cornet, pocket trumpet, tuba
Alex Silver - trombone
James Eccles - viola
Jon Pease - guitar
Michel Rose - pedal steel guitar
Fabian Hevia - cajon, percussion
Ron Reeves - kendang, percussion
Hamish Stuart - drums
Performance + Interview - That Music Show on ABC Radio National, Sunday 31 May 2015