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Fremantle Arts Centre and Perth Festival presents,

Katrina Ballads

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Date & time

15th of February 2018 at 8:00pm



1 Finnerty Street
WA 6160
  • Fremantle


Praised by The New York Times for his “tough edge and wildness of spirit,” acclaimed US composer and vocalist Ted Hearne brings his modern classic, Katrina Ballads to Fremantle Arts Centre in an Australian premiere on Thursday 15 February as part of Perth Festival.

Katrina Ballads is inspired by the tragic devastation of New Orleans in 2005 by Hurricane Katrina and the ensuing national political and media response. Featuring vocalists, chamber ensemble and gripping accompanying video, Katrina Ballads is a vivid look at one of America’s darkest hours.

Katrina Ballads uses primary-source texts from the week surrounding Hurricane Katrina as its libretto. Aired on national media and immediately archived forever on the internet, these are the words of survivors, relief workers, politicians and celebrities including George W Bush and Kanye West, interspersed as an emotional and journalistic song cycle.

Rhythmic, theatrical, with an edgy post minimalist drive and extended jazz and rock references, Katrina Ballads is American to its core, combining elements of many different musical styles into a compelling hybrid, challenging expectations about both the sounds and purposes of contemporary music.

Ted Hearne is acclaimed as a leading young US composer rejuvenating contemporary American chamber-scale work. Also a charismatic vocalist and performer, Hearne will be joined by three vocalists including American Isaiah Robinson and accompanied by a mixed ensemble of 11 musicians.

The accompanying video by celebrated film-maker Bill Morrison combines documentary footage of the flooded city with TV interviews and other media to create a textured, moving commentary that resonates with the live music and vocal score.

“It’s beyond exciting to be bringing this work to the Perth Festival and to the Southern Hemisphere for the first time,” said Hearne. “I wrote Katrina Ballads in 2007 because I didn’t know how else to confront the awakening of helplessness and dread that came after witnessing, as a privileged young person watching from New York City, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina shine a light on racism, economic inequality, political cowardice and the forces that perpetuate these things in my country. I’m curious to see how this perspective, a snapshot from a very particular place and time, resonates a decade later, on the other side of the world, in a place and time that nonetheless grapples with the same issues in only slightly different ways.”

Fremantle Arts Centre Director Jim Cathcart said he is delighted to bring a composer of Hearne’s calibre and reputation to Perth. “Ted is one of the most critically lauded composers of his generation and his technique of using source material to present musical interpretations of significant political events is potent and enthralling.”

First performed in 2007, Katrina Ballads has been enthusiastically received and this is its Australian premiere.

Hearne has worked with orchestras and ensembles across the US. He has also collaborated with a number of contemporary artists and even composed a sold out evening-length piece for multiple-Grammy-Award-winning artist, Erykah Badu. His recent work, The Source, based on the Chelsea Manning story was dubbed “a 21st Century masterpiece” by The New York Times.

FAC presents Katrina Ballads as part of its annual series Soft Soft Loud, a program of world class, genre-melding chamber music collaborations.

    • Adult
  • $49 adult, $44 concession