Yarri of Wiradjuri – Lyrics – John Warner


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A song and verse cycle by John Warner about the great flood in Gundagai in 1852

Soft cover 16pp

he original township of Gundagai was destroyed by a great flood on the Murrumbidgee River in 1852.
The lives of many white settlers were saved by Yarri, Jackey and other Wiradjuri.
John’s work tells this story of positive interaction between Indigenous people and early white settlers from a European perspective and in a style that has its roots in the traditional forms of the Anglo-Saxons.
John’s moving and colourful images emphasise the relationship of the Wiradjuri with their land and the tragic effects of European settlement.

The work has received support and encouragement from Wiradjuri elders such as Flo Grant, Vince Bulger and the late Pastor Cec Grant, Wongamar OAM.
The overwhelming response from those who have seen performances is that it promotes reconciliation and understanding between the Indigenous and other Australians.
CD REVIEW – by Chloe and Jason Roweth

Choosing to relate the story of the disastrous Gundagai flood of winter 1852 in a song and verse cycle must have raised challenges many and mighty.

The resulting CD is ample evidence that the very talented team, led by composer/author John Warner, have met the challenges head on and produced a work of great quality and substance.

The original Gundagai settlement was made on the Murrumbidgee river flats despite warnings from the local Koori people about severe flooding.

When the inevitable happened and the township was washed away, eighty-nine (known) people lost their lives – over one third of the European population of the town!
This figure may have risen by half as much again or more if not for the heroic behaviour of local Wiradjuri man, Yarri, who repeatedly risked his life in his bark canoe returning to the wild floodwaters to rescue those stranded, one by one.

Within the nature of the project the CD manages to provide quite a thorough historical document.

There has obviously been a great deal of research and consultation but, even more impressive to us, is John’s rare ability as author to ask the pertinent questions rather than simply speak for the characters.

This complex three-sided story – European, Wiradjuri and Murrumbidgee – is told here with compassion and insight.
There is an exploration of the material considerations of the settlers in contrast with the nomadic flexibility of the local inhabitants.

How can you reward a hero who has no regard for wealth or possessions?
There is conflict, but also a common humanity discovered between the mothers of both tribes in their fears for the children of the valley.

Through the whole story is woven the inexorable ebb and flow of the Murrumbidgee and her daughter, the creek, as the spirits of the place, the hands of fate, and characters in their own right.

The combination of narration by John Derum, and performances by fine singers and musicians sits very happily in the ears. There is a strong sense of melody throughout.
The dominance of chorus songs leaves you singing parts of the CD after only one listen.
We get the feeling that the songs will find their way off the CD and into peoples repertoires.
Of course, this will ensure that Yarri’s story will be told far and wide for years to come: a great result!

The CD is technically excellent.
It looks great, has a thorough and helpful booklet and sounds terrific.
At a time when every man and his dog has a CD to sell it is rare to see a product that stands this far out from the crowd.

Congratulations to John and all the crew.

Additional information

Weight .265 kg
Dimensions 25 × 17.5 × 1 cm


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