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Some audience reactions...

"I loved the performance last night - it was brilliant! It operated on so many different levels - there were some amusing moments as well as many highly moving and thought provoking moments along with the wonderful music, lyrics, informative stories AND Anzac biscuits and Turkish Delight (great touch)! Plus always that personable engagement with the audience. The length of the applause showed how much we all loved the show!"

Audience member Genimaree, Brunswick Music Festival 2015 - inaugural performance of UHAH: Lest We Forget

“I’ve just returned from the National Folk Festival and was able to see the Unsung Heros show.
It is a wonderful show and enjoyed the music very much. I found myself crying in some songs, especially “The Tale of Jim Martin”. Thanks again for putting the show together and making us aware of just some of the unsung heroes.”
Kind Regards,

Sam

“I just loved both halves, but I think I cried more in the first one! Great show!”
Sandy, National Folk Festival audience

“I love the way the narration adds to the stories in the songs. It was so informative as well as funny and moving”
Clare, Preston

“That Dad’s Song did me in. My father was in WW2. He never talked about it either. Same goes for me... but now... I’m going home to talk to my kids”
Vietnam Veteran

“I urge you to take this to schools. It was so full of information and so engaging. This is the way to get through to them. Kids will learn from this show!”
History Teacher

“Terrific show! Standout highlight of this year’s festival for me!”
National Folk Festival regular

“You had first world war socks in that photo with that song about the second world war!”
Digruntled Expert

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Reviews

2014 Stella Prize Winner, Dr Clare Wright, Historian Author Broadcaster, Honorary Research Fellow, La Trobe University

"With exquisite attention to their craft, Moira Tyers and her players tune in to Australian History, rescuing some long-forgotten stories from obscurity, and breathing new life into other more familiar iconic tales. Gutsy, political, refractory and lyrical, Unsung Heroes is sure to be enjoyed by a new generation of music lovers who want to see meat on the bones of the past. These songs drip with the satisfying juices of solid research, spirited lyrics and sublime artistry. A musical and historical feast!"

Ian Lewis, Speech Writer

After numerous unsuccessful attempts at coming to grips with my country’s history in secondary school, I am glad to say I have finally developed a taste for it, but not at the hands of a teacher or through a textbook. Moira Tyers’ concept piece “Unsung Heroes of Australian History” managed to stimulate my interest in Australian history not by rehashing the hackneyed accounts of convicts, gold and “boom and bust” but by presenting stories of some lesser known characters who have played smaller or virtually unknown parts in our country’s folklore.

These stories are told in 14 original songs (with one by Mick Thomas) and if you think that these are merely essays read to incidental accompaniment, think again. From the first song - a moving account of “the brothel ship” The Lady Juliana which first brought female convicts to Australia in 1790 - it is clear that melody, harmonies and instrumentation have not suffered at all in the crafting of these “story songs”. What follows is a smorgasbord of genre, style and tempo while dealing with flippant subjects like our national breakfast spread Vegemite or heartrending tales of the youngest digger killed in WW1 and Moira’s own Dad’s reticence about his harrowing wartime experience in Borneo in WW2. There is even room for the soulful telling of the tale of the man dubbed Mr Eternity whose somewhat enigmatic contribution to our history is one which lends itself to an inspiring vocal treatment featuring the four voices of this talented troupe.

Perhaps the song which made me stop and reflect a little more was one about the war that most Australians will never know about: the undeclared war between European settlers and the original inhabitants of our land. This is a plaintive lament which questions how we can ever say “lest we forget” when in this case, we never really knew. People with musical tastes ranging from Slim Dusty to Mick Thomas, and Eric Bogle through to Shane Howard will find something to like in the music and stories told in UHAH. It’s quite a feat to assemble such a strong collection of songs which enhance and complement rather than overpower the legends and ideas which are the real stars of the show. If only my third form Australian History teacher was able to present information in such an appetizing and inspirational way…
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Malcolm J Turnbull, Folk Historian, Author

UNSUNG HEROES OF AUSTRALIAN HISTORY is an informative, thought-provoking and entertaining musical and multi-media package that brings together a group of talented Melbourne singer-songwriters.

As its title suggests, the program celebrates the little-known achievements of a diverse collection of men and women who have contributed significantly to our national culture and identity. Starting with the resilient women of the first fleet, UHOAH recalls such sturdy individualists as journalist Louisa Lawson, Bill Dargin (who tracked down Ben Hall), the miners’ wives who stitched the Eureka flag,  and environmental photographer Olegas Truchanas.

UHOAH represents a fortuitous coming-together of the trio UNSUNG (comprised of Wendy Ealey, Moira Tyers and Neil Robertson) and Bruce Watson, all respected and award-winning contributors to the Victorian acoustic music scene. Their collaboration is distinguished by  innovative arrangements, powerful vocals, tight and precise harmonies  and first-rate original material.  While all four songwriters have contributed, the overall concept, extensive research  and more than half of the original songs are Moira’s. Her  lighthearted homage to Fred Walker (inventor of vegemite)  and moving tribute to Albert Namatjira underline her songwriting versatility.

Also memorable are Bruce Watson’s extraordinary account of his ancestor’s pioneering “field recording” with Tasmanian aboriginal Fanny Cochrane-Smith and Wendy Ealey’s touching tribute to her scientist father. Neil Robertson’s anthemic ‘Unsung Heroes: first 200 Years’ is a wonderfully singable and most appropriate finale to the program.  

UHAH rightly earned  a standing ovation when the quartet (together with Fanny Cochrane Smith’s descendant Ronnie Summers ) presented it as a two –part workshop (‘themed presentation’ if you must) at this year’s National Folk Festival in Canberra.    Based on the response to date, UNSUNG is currently exploring possibilities for reprising and developing the program (either at festivals or perhaps as a tie-in to Australian studies in schools).  

Well-executed, refreshingly varied in style and substance, and beautifully performed, UHOAH undoubtedly deserves a much wider audience. I would urge the participants to ensure, at least, that the project be recorded. This material is well worth preserving. Back to Reviews

Unsung Heroes of Australian History performed as a two hander at The Melton Library, July 2014
Reviewed by Veronica Schwarz

Wendy Ealey and Moira Tyers are two wonderful performers whose show “Unsung Heroes” left me with only one word: “Wow!!”
Now that I’ve regained normal speech, I can tell you that the stories they sing and speak and show are moving and inspiring. Their unsung heroes include the indigenous people of this country, the women who are rarely mentioned in history, a fourteen-year old boy who was the youngest soldier to die at Gallipoli and men who have left their mark on our history but are unknown to most of us.
Wendy and Moira’s voices and musical talents are awesome. They play a range of musical instruments with talent and panache. Moira’s talent on guitar is enviable. In fact, she’s great.
Wendy’s voice ranges from sweet through beautiful to downright gutsy and powerful and Moira is right there with her. Many of the songs were written by Moira. As if all that weren’t enough, in the background they present a slideshow of historic and sometimes rare photos to illustrate their stories.
Not only was I impressed, moved and entertained, I also walked out after the show on a high that lasted for hours. I loved it.
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Unsung Heroes of Australian History performed at The National Folk Festival
Reviewed by John Williams for Trad & Now

Every year at the National somebody creates a program which sticks in your mind long after you have experienced it. This year it was a program compiled by Moira Tyers, Wendy Ealey, Bruce Watson and Neil Robertson. It was a real highlight of the National for me and I was so glad I saw it.

As the title suggests it was about people from our History you may have heard of but knew only a little about. In this presentation fifteen ‘Unsung Heroes’ were presented in words, slides and a purposely written song for each. At the end you felt you knew a lot more about the individuals and were inspired to go home and find out more. The show was divided into two parts, the first century of white settlement and the second century.

The artists began by talking about the ‘Lady Juliana’ a ship which arrived between the first and second fleet and contained only female convicts to “Raise the moral levels of the colony.” The convict women did what they had to to survive and the ship became known as ‘The Floating Brothel’. Needless to say many current Australians have a relative who came out on the ship and became a wife and mother, often to many children.

The second unsung hero was Billy Dargin, the aboriginal Police tracker credited with finding and shooting Ben Hall.
Hailed a hero initially, Billy was dead within months. Was it poisoning or just a broken heart from being ostracized by his community as the Ben Hall legend gained favour with the locals after his death.

The women who sewed the Eureka flag were the next group honoured. They weren’t permitted to fight so stayed up at night sewing to create the iconic Eureka flag from heavy woollen material and lace from their petticoats.

Henry Lawson was justly famous but what about his mother Louisa. She raised her family alone, was a bullock driver, poet, inventor, activist, suffragette, magazine publisher and writer. She also took on the five thousand members of the Printer’s Union by employing only female typesetters. Talk about multi tasking!

An absolute highlight of the presentation was when Bruce Watson performed his song about Fanny Cochrane Smith and her aboriginal songs being recorded by Horace Watson in Tasmania. Fanny outlived Truganini by many years. The tag on the song is that Horace Watson is Bruce’s Great Grandfather. What made this memorable was a new final verse which was sung by Ronnie Summers who is Fanny Cochrane Smith’s Great Grandson. Talk about the Wow factor.

Jim Martin was an ANZAC who contracted typhoid at Gallipoli and died on a hospital ship. Nothing unusual in that, it happened to hundreds of soldiers. Jim had lied to join up when his father was knocked back as medically unfit. He was fourteen when he died, our youngest ANZAC.

Fred Walker was an obscure chemist working for Kraft. He played around with beer yeast extracts and invented Parwill which didn’t really take off until the name was changed to Vegemite. Did you know it is banned in the USA as it contains too much folate for them?

Arthur Stace was a down an out ex- serviceman, alcoholic in Sydney who found religion after listening to a hellfire preacher. He gave up the grog, got a job, dressed well and spent his days walking around Sydney writing “Eternity” in perfect copperplate. Arthur had not had much schooling and could never explain his new handwriting skill.

Moira Tyers, the leader of this talented group, then presented a very personal story about her own father and his reticence to talk about the horrors of his war service. It was a very moving and personal account and a fitting tribute to a brave, unsung hero and the thousands of returned men just like him.

Bruce Watson sang about Olegas Truchanas, a post war Lithuanian immigrant who photographed the wild areas of Tasmania. The song was accompanied by some of the famous photographs Olegas took of Lake Pedder. Though Lake Pedder was lost, to the eternal shame of some Tasmanian politicians and businessmen, Olegas was at the forefront of changing the way Australians think about the Environment. It was his inspiration which inspired the fight to save the Franklin River and Fraser Island for posterity. We owe him so much.

Albert Namatjira is well known through his art but the group gave a far deeper understanding about his life between two communities, his jailing and early death of a broken heart.

Wendy Ealey, who was a very energetic and entertaining narrator throughout, then presented the wonderful finale about her own father, Professor Tim Ealey OA. Tim was an environmentalist long before it was fashionable.
He was the first Environment Professor at Monash and now he is in his eighties is still working with kids to try and save our environment in coastal Victoria.

The group plan to expand with more Unsung Heroes (Shirley Andrews anyone?) Hopefully a book, CD, DVD and school presentations will follow. The program can travel to other festivals (Directors take note) and with the new place of Australian History in the National Curriculum who knows where this will lead. I’ve loved History all my life and thought I knew a lot about these people. I found I did but now I know a lot more after a memorable two sessions at The National Folk Festival. Congratulations to all concerned. Back to Reviews

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Listen to the show's finale "Unsung Heroes"
Listen to a live interview
with Alan Brough,
Feb 2011
(File size 15Mb)

Listen to a live interview with Trevor Chappell
June 2014

(File size 28.4Mb)

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There is kindness and courage in almost everyone. We can’t all be Warnies or Kylies or Clarkies or Blanchetts.
We can all be loyal and truthful and hardworking and brave - and most of us are much of the time.
When we are dust and ashes, what traces will we leave...