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Music from 1938 features at opening


Posted on 7 March 2018

A musical score written for the dedication of the Australian National Memorial 80 years ago will be performed at the opening of the Sir John Monash Centre in April 2018.

“Coo-ee: Our Australian Home” was written by British composer Loo E. Elgar and performed at the formal dedication of the Memorial in 1938.

A copy of the musical score has been loaned to the Sir John Monash Centre and will be performed by the Australian Army Band, in a fitting tribute to the relationship between the two Australian memorials.

‘Coo-ee’ was a shout used in Australia, usually in the bush, to attract attention, call for help, find missing people or indicate one’s location.

The word, which became popular with European settlers, originates from the Dharug people, the first inhabitants of the Sydney area, and means ‘come here’.

Loo E. Elgar, who had composed many popular theatre scores, incorporated ‘coo-ee’ in his tribute to the Australian soldiers who served on the Western Front, far from home:

Though I am far from hearing

Your Coo-ee across the foam,

Soon I shall hope to be with you, dear one,

In our Australian home.

Queen Elizabeth placing a wreath at the opening of the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial, France 1938 (AWM H17477).

Elgar’s composition was part of a solemn program broadcast by the BBC and relayed throughout Australia. French trumpeters sounded a fanfare and a children’s choir sang ‘God Save the King’. Four planes droned overhead and a boy from the Villers-Bretonneux school handed poppies to the Queen.

Unveiling the Memorial, King George VI addressed a large crowd about the Australian soldiers’ unstinting service on the Western Front: “They rest in peace, while over them all, Australia’s tower keeps watch and ward.”

Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister Earle Page commented that “Australia will forever revere this hallowed spot”, while the French President Albert Lebrun said the commemoration demonstrated the close entente of the two democracies: “To the hundreds of pilgrims who have crossed the oceans to the soil where their brothers fought, I wish to express my fervent sympathy and affection.”

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