Adelaide Symphony Orchestra presents a participatory community engagement project: Floods of Fire

ASO-Floods-of-Fire-photo-by-Matt-TurnerIn celebration of World Inclusion Day, Adelaide Symphony Orchestra is proud to announce Floods of Fire – an artist-led community-building project drawing on the cultural heritage of a wide spectrum of communities living in South Australia.

Thematically, Floods of Fire focuses on our environment and the impacts of climate change, stemming from flood and fire stories associated with creation, destruction and re-creation.

ASO Managing Director, Vincent Ciccarello, said Floods of Fire was conceived with European participatory theatre director, Airan Berg, in response to the devastating fires and then floods of 2019/2020.

Floods of Fire is an example of how ASO reflects the issues and concerns affecting our community today, by listening, connecting and learning. This inclusive engagement is finding expression in the development of new music and a new way of working for the orchestra, which is very exciting,” he said.

Over the course of 12 months ASO collaborated with Nexus Arts, Tutti Arts, Brink Productions, Open Music Academy, Elder Conservatorium, CFS and SES after receiving funding from Department of Premier and Cabinet, Arts SA.

The orchestra engaged South Australian Composers: Julian Ferraretto, Hilary Kleinig, Adam Page, Luke Harrald, Grayson Rotumah, Jakub Jankowski, Zhao Liang and Belinda Gehlert.

The lead composers collaborated with musicians Noriko Tadano, Nancy Bates, Farhan Shah, Iran Sanadzadeh, Alain Valodze, Lazaro Numa, Zuhir Naji, Maryam Rahmani, Bortier Okoe, as well as artists from Tutti Arts including Thank God It’s Friday choir, Quirkestra, Tutti Choir and the Tutti Arts Creative Writing Group to create new compositions for the ASO.

Workshops also involved musician David Dai, Yidaki Player Robert Taylor and conductor Luke Dollman who distinctively brought the project to life.

Chris Drummond Brink Productions Artistic Director, used his skills as a theatre director to take on the role of facilitating for the way in which the disparate contributors came together, particularly with an eye on how stories intersected with the process of collaborative composition.

“Over three hours an extraordinary musical conversation unfurled between this community of artists representing many cultures and backgrounds, all exploring personal responses to their different encounters with floods or fire,” said Drummond.

“Dr Jared Thomas from the SA Museum spoke of the First Nations dreaming stories that shaped the lands on which we exist. It was a powerful and unifying start to the project and has sustained and nourished all the participants as they have gone on to work in smaller separate groups over the ensuing months.”

“The privilege of being at some of the orchestral rehearsals for the new works that have since been written has been spine-tingling. The combination of these experiences to date only hints at the enormous potential this work will have with its public outcomes,” said Drummond.

Musician Farhan Shah described his workshop group as a cocktail mix of different cultures, sounds and innovation.

“A Pakistani Sufi Chanting composer vocalist, a flamenco guitarist/composer, a young innovative Iranian female musician with a unique manually digital sound box instrument all working with acclaimed lead composer/musician Julian Ferraretto,” he said.

Coming from a different part of the world Farhan had an idea of destruction and floods in different contexts, but the project was an eye opener for him in an Australian context. “The different metaphors around fire and flood, it was heartbreaking to hear the many personal stories,” he said.

Farhan’s biggest take away from Floods of Fire was getting to meet and work with a range of artists, hearing their stories and sharing and learning from others’ experiences.

Floods of Fire will be performed in 2022 but audiences will get a sneak peek at three of the compositions at Festival of Orchestra. Zhao Liang’s story of the phoenix will be shared as a family workshop as part of the Festival’s family program, Sunday 5 December.

Whilst at Carmina Burana, Saturday 27 November Grayson Rotumah and Luke Harrald’s piece will be performed on the main stage along with Julian Ferraretto’s piece, co-written with the Open Academy and students from Carlton School Port Augusta.

ASO Community Projects Manager Elizabeth McCall said Floods was such an exciting project to work on, “ASO had never contemplated a project on this scale, it had worked with different communities but not immersed in the same way this is,” she said.

“Music is this incredible way of telling a story, it’s more than just music it communicates someone’s whole experience often beyond words so if we can get into people’s stories and help create that music we are truly connecting with them.”

“It makes music contemporary it brings it into the now. You can bring different musicians together from many different walks of life and have incredible music outcomes,” said McCall.

Airan Berg is an internationally working theatre maker and artistic director, who specialises in large scale participatory and inclusive projects. He is currently the artistic director of: Festival der Regionen, one of Austria’s most prestigious festivals, Orfeo & Majnun a Creative Europe music theatre project in 7 European Countries, and Floods of Fire, commissioned by the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra.

ASO commissioned South Australian film makers Randy Larcombe and Suzi Ting to document Floods of Fire creative workshops the short film can be viewed at: Floods of Fire will be performed in 2022. For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Noriko Tadano, Julian Ferraretto, Farhan Shah, Elizabeth McCall, Lorcan Hopper and Zhao Liang in Adelaide – photo by Matt Turner