Mission Songs Project brings nearly forgotten songs to life

FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre press release – Presenting an authentic narrative of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait communities through song and story, Jessie Lloyd’s acclaimed production Mission Songs Project comes to The Recital Hall at FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre on Friday, Apr. 3/2020 at 7:30 p.m. with guest Lacey Hill. These unique songs reveal near-forgotten stories that shed light onto an unexplored corner of Australian history.

Produced by acclaimed Australian producers Performing Lines, Mission Songs Project features a trove of old and rare songs gathered from members of Australia’s Stolen Generations who were forcibly taken to live on religious missions from the 1900s through to the 1970s.

“Mission Songs Project started out of curiosity of what songs our people were singing in the missions’ era in the first half of the 20th Century; on settlements, reserves and missions; it’s what they were singing after church that inspired me. It painted a picture of those days no one really talked about,” said Lloyd.

Originally from tropical North Queensland, Jessie Lloyd is an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander musician who performs a broad collection of Australian Indigenous songs. A vocalist, guitarist, bassist and ukulele player, Jessie earned her formal qualifications at Abmusic in Perth in 2002.

A musician, producer and creative entrepreneur, Jessie Lloyd is a cultural practitioner dedicated to the continuation of song traditions. Her mission is to produce, perform and progress Australian Indigenous music through innovative, collaborative projects and cultural practice.

Performed by an extraordinary quartet of Indigenous musicians led by Lloyd, Mission Songs Project is infused with Islander rhythms, folk, and a little country ‘n western. With laid-back humour and poignant storytelling, moving harmonies and historical insights, the performers bring to life the voices of Elders as they would around a campfire or kitchen table.

In developing the collection of songs for this performance project, the multi-talented vocalist, musician and cultural practitioner of Indigenous music traveled extensively, visiting communities from West Australian capital Perth right across the nation to remote Palm Island to hear their stories and learn these almost-lost songs.

On a recent research trip to South Australia, Lloyd said: “It was a privilege for me to meet with the community in Port Augusta who have direct ties to the Umeewarra Mission. Hearing from Elders and Aboriginal people opened up whole new conversations. I love traveling and hearing people’s yarns; it’s a part of Australian history, a part of our modern Aboriginality.”

This national and international tour of Mission Songs Project continues Performing Lines’ proud tradition of supporting independent First Nations artists to fulfill their creative potential.

“When the team at Performing Lines first saw Jessie perform we agreed that we had to support this important work. We’re thrilled to be working with Ontario Presents to bring this project to Canada where it is sure to resonate deeply,” said Marion Potts, Executive Producer at Performing Lines.

The evening will begin with an intimate performance by singer-songwriter Lacey Hill from Oneida of Six Nations, Wolf Clan. For over a decade Lacey has honed her talents singing back-up vocals and cover songs with local bands. But she wanted more, and since 2013 has taken centre stage with her own original acoustic music that blends folk and blues.

Mission Songs Project takes place in The Recital Hall at FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre on Friday, Apr. 3/2020 at 7:30 p.m. Click on firstontariopac.ca for tickets or visit the box office in-person at 250 St. Paul Street or call the box office: 905-688-0722.