Music / CIMF, Concert 16, “The Dunera Mass”. At Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture, Braddon, May 6. Reviewed by LEN POWER.

THE “Dunera”, a hired military transport ship, sailed from Liverpool, England, for Australia in 1940 with 2546 men, ranging in age from 16 to 66. 

Most were German or Austrian, and most were Jewish. Many had fled to Britain in the 1930s to escape Hitler’s Reich. They were sent to internment camps in Victoria and NSW. While many returned to Europe after the war, others remained in Australia.

Music composed by internee Max-Peter Meyer was played and sung on the ship and in the camps in Australia. Long forgotten, the music resurfaced in 2022. It was handed in a simple envelope to the parish music director at the Holy Family Catholic Church in Lindfield, NSW, by parishioner Ossie Wolkenstein, who had been one of the Dunera group.

This “Dunera Mass” program consisted of the music composed by Max-Peter Meyer and by another of the transported men, Boaz Bischofswerder.

Nicole Forsyth on viola with Roland Peelman on piano at “The Dunera Mass”. Photo: Peter Hislop

Narrated by Nicole Forsyth, whose father Dr James Forsyth was the parish music director who had been given the music manuscripts. Her narration expanded on many of the details known about the Dunera incident, and informed the music we were about to hear.

The program began with the first movement of Meyer’s piano concerto played by the Meyer Quartet – David Cavenagh, piano; James Monro, cello; Pippa Newman, viola and Brad Tham, violin.

It was followed by “De Profundis” by Meyer sung by the Oriana Chorale with Roland Peelman on piano and Dan Walker conducting.

Soprano, Rachel Mink, then sang “The Moon Has Risen”, a traditional German lullaby. The melody of this song then appeared in a second movement of Meyer’s piano quartet, played by the Meyer Quartet. Its sentiment was very touching and must have had quite an effect on those on board the ship heading away from their homelands.

Bischofswerder’s “Phantasia Judaica” was also composed during the ship’s voyage in 1940. Four men of the Luminescence Chamber Singers sang the opening of the work with Roland Peelman on piano and Nicole Forsyth on viola performing the music.

The finale of Meyer’s “Dunera Mass” in D minor was performed by the men of the Oriana Chorale, conducted by Roland Peelman.

The playing and singing of the music of this entire concert was exceptional and every performer contributed to an overwhelming emotional experience which will be long remembered.

Roland Peelman conducts the men of the Oriana Chorale. Photo: Peter Hislop

Feature image: Dan Walker conducts the Oriana Chorale. Photo: Peter Hislop

This review was originally written and published by LEN POWER from CityNews on 06 May 2023.