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Rise For The Oceans

15 September 2015 | 1:41 pm | Tyler McLoughlan

"Having spent much of his career telling stories of Australia's love of the ocean, Winton puts into very real terms the reasons why AMCS must exist."

A one-off musical and speaking event, Rise For The Oceans brings together a well curated range of creative and academic names to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Australian Marine Conservation Society. Opening with one of Australia's foremost didgeridoo players, William Barton pays homage to the Southern seas as brilliantly crisp footage plays beyond a stage adorned with coral and jellyfish light installations that remain mesmerising throughout the whole program.

The care taken in selecting key pieces of ocean cinematography continues to be evident with the unveiling of Rise For The Oceans, a heart-tugging recording of piano and harp from Antony & The Johnsons set to fascinating close-ups of coral spawning from Emmy Award-winning North Stradbroke Island cinematographer David Hannan. As director Ignatius Jones attempts to segue into a speech by Professor Iain McCalman (The Reef: A Passionate History), the program turns somewhat variety show as he introduces Bernard Fanning, and later Katie Noonan who is ethereal at the grand piano as she reworks the Judith Wright poem The Surfer, with overzealous pageantry. Fanning is his usual charismatic self, wheeling out Powderfinger cut Sail The Wildest Stretch on acoustic guitar ('Shh, this is just between us," he laughs), and premiering a newbie on grand piano.

And then Jessica Watson, fearless solo sailor, wanders onto stage with a headset to chat about her record-breaking voyage. Full dues for her courageous adventuring, though by this point the program is a join-the-dots exercise, and given the material and guests involved it should instead feel like a wonderful, cross-platform collage. When finally tonight's most revered guest — author and AMCS patron Tim Winton — takes to the stage with his relaxed Western Australian demeanour, the audience is delighted to hear: "I've had so many wees I'm afraid I might self-combust." Having spent much of his career telling stories of Australia's love of the ocean, Winton puts into very real terms the reasons why AMCS must exist.

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Rise For The Oceans gets another run as the musical guests are accompanied by a stunning array of underwater imagery being beamed onto the upper reaches of the Concert Hall. As the shape of organist Christopher Wrench in preparation is finally noted high above, the anticipation of over 6,500 pipes of the Klais grand organ being unleashed brings a fitting ceremonial tone to tonight's celebration.