Friday, 01 June 2012 12:06
In 1789, the very famous Mutiny on the Bounty occurred. Fletcher Christian tossed the volatile Captain Bligh into a long boat with a sextant, food and few of his crew, turned the Bounty around and went in search of somewhere to hide.
They returned to Tahiti, stocked the Bounty with livestock and provisions and then departed secretly in the night with Tahitian “wives”, most likely unaware of their departure, and 5 Tahitian men.
Christian and his crew spent the next 12 months criss-crossing the Pacific until the wrongly charted Pitcairn Island was found and became their home. Pitcairn was the perfect hiding place, with fertile soil and an abundance of timber and water, and completely isolated from the rest of the word.
Nine Europeans and Eighteen Polynesians made up the small community. Land and wives were divided up amongst the 9 Europeans and the 6 Polynesian men had to share the 3 remaining women. This was not ideal but the community made do for a couple of years until Williams’ wife died and he abducted the wife of one of the Polynesian men. Things went horribly wrong and within ten years all the men on the island apart from John Adams had perished, most of them violently. Adams had a sign from God and took it upon himself to lead the remaining women and children in a pious existence. When the community was finally discovered after a dozen years the descriptions suggest a harmonious almost perfect existence. All the islanders spoke both English and Tahitian.
New blood arrived not long after with visitors wanting to stay on and join the community. George Hunn Nobbs, who claimed he was the illegitimate son of Lord Hastings but who certainly had been a pirate, mercenary and opportunist, was educated and had some idea of religious protocol. He became the teacher, religious leader, and married Fletcher Christian’s Granddaughter.
In the 1850’s the community had grown to almost 200 and the tiny island was increasingly unable to support them. They asked Queen Victoria for help and she offered them Norfolk Island. Norfolk Island had been a penal colony that had recently been disbanded and the island deserted. In 1856 the entire community of Pitcairn embarked on the journey to their new home 3700 miles away. Everything about their new home astonished the Pitcairners who were confronted with massive stone buildings, cattle, exotic fruits and flowers, furniture and of course the reminders of convict punishment.
With help from the strong leadership of Nobbs, the community settled into their new home well. A few families returned to Pitcairn unable to deal with their homesickness and their families remain there today.
John Adams, the last remaining Englishman, taught his small flock, comprised of 9 Tahitian women and 20 children to sing. They would sing Psalms using melodies remembered by Adams. Traditional Tahitian music and dance also prevailed as visitors to the island were entertained by a percussion group under the leadership of Arthur Quintal and 3 female dancers. Religious music was composed as well and performed in 4 part harmony. These hymns were transcribed and remain in use on Norfolk and Pitcairn today.
The language which is a mix of Tahitian and English is spoken in a very musical way. Recordings of spoken word have been transcribed and used as melodies for use in the show.
Mutiny Music is a show which endeavours to describe this colourful story using the music and language unique to this tiny island paradise.
Baecastuff is led by Rick Robertson, a descendant of Nobbs, Christian and Quintal and who’s family reside on Norfolk Island. He is the principal composer, however the band is comprised of the finest musicians and improvisers.
Matt McMahon – Piano.
Phil Slater – Trumpet
Alexander Heweton – Bass
Simon Barker – Drums
Aykho Akhrif – Percussion.
Mutiny Music was conceived by Rick Robertson.
Darling Harbour Jazz Festival Monday 11th June 1:30 PM
Wangaratta Jazz Festival - 3 + 4th November 2012.