Entertainment Music Port Arthur Requiem unearthed and performed on 25th anniversary of massacre
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Port Arthur Requiem unearthed and performed on 25th anniversary of massacre

The memorial to the Port Arthur massacre. Photo: ABC News
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Port Arthur Requiem 1997 was the name on the top of a musical score sent to Tasmanian musician Alan Greenlees almost a quarter of a century ago, but it was not played until last year.

The requiem was written by musician and composer Graham Powning to honour those who were shot at the Port Arthur Historical site in 1996.

A recording has been released on Wednesday, 25 years on.

Thirty five people were killed and 23 were wounded on April 28, 1996 during the massacre.

Powning passed away last year and his musical score has been played for the first time in tribute to him.

The music was performed by Mr Greenlees and was recorded last week to honour the victims of the massacre.

At the time he received the score from Powning, Mr Greenlees played the oboe and cor anglais with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra.

“When Graham died early last year, it was a pause to think and reflect,” Mr Greenlees said.

“This recording is in memory of him as much as of the shooting at Port Arthur.

“Finding this piece of music he had sent me, I thought it would be really good to put it out there in some fashion, and so here we are today.”

Impact on the orchestra

The massacre has had an enduring impact on Tasmania, with many people on the island having personal connections to the event.

The Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra was also affected.

“At the time of the shooting, the Tasmanian Symphony had a small party of visiting singers, and one of their staff, down there who were present on the site at that time,” Mr Greenlees said.

“So there was resonance with the organisation.”

Graham Powning was an oboist and a composer. Photo: Stiles Music

A musical friendship

Mr Greenlees played alongside Powning in the Elizabethan Trust Sydney Orchestra (today known as the Opera Australia Orchestra) in the early 1970s.

Mr Greenlees took up the role of second oboe with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra in 1975, where he remained for over 20 years.

The men stayed in touch over the years but had not seen each other for about a decade.

“I feel a little embarrassed that I sat on the music for so long,” Mr Greenlees said.

“I am more free to do things with music now, as I am not employed by an orchestra.”

Mr Greenlees is now retired.

Oboist Alan Greenlees was sent a score entitled Requiem Port Arthur 1997. Photo: Alan Greenlees

Recording the music

While the piece, which was written for a single cor anglais, could have been performed earlier, Mr Greenlees does not believe it would have been played for the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra.

The recording was made with just three attempts.

Martin Penicka, who plays cello for the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, produced the recording.

There will be a further release of the music on the Australian Double Reed Society’s website and Facebook page.

ABC