Objects of Substance- Nil Sine Labore

Nil Sine Labore : Our School Song

Original sheet music of the School Song

‘We teach music because it is unique and good. We teach music so that children can make their own music. We teach music because it acts in a unique way on the heart, mind, soul and spirit of the child, stimulating thought and imagination in very special ways.’ — Dr Richard Gill, Sydney Morning Herald. 1 The composer of our School Song, Dr Richard Gill OAM, was arguably the most influential figure in music education advocacy in Australia. He was passionate and insistent: everyone can sing; and everyone can compose music. In 1999, Principal, Mrs Judith Hancock, commissioned Dr Gill to compose our School Song in preparation for the new millennium. It was to be a full orchestral work beginning with a prelude and leading to the song, ‘somewhat like the Brahms Academic Festival Overture’ (Correspondence, 1999). As the brief evolved, Gill was encouraged further to capture the ‘youthful spirit of the students’ (Spring Gazette, 2010). Mrs Svyetlana Hadgraft, a beloved English teacher who was keenly involved in music, had been tasked by Mrs Hancock to pen the text. With the Principal requesting references to the past, the present and the future, Mrs Hadgraft’s timeless solution was to focus on the enduring ethos of the School: ‘ Maintain our founder's vision bold: a life enriched by learning ’. Dr Richard Gill’s musical gestures are bold, and he played with phrase length and melodic contour. For instance, the opening ‘ Nil Sine Labore! ’ is repeated and declamatory, while ‘ Dare to let your dreams take wing and soar ’ is drawn out as a longer, rising sequence of notes, pivoting into another universe and ending in a modulation to another key. This marriage of text and music has resulted in a work that is still performed effortlessly and energetically in School assemblies 20 years later. First officially performed at the School Executive Induction on 15 March 2000 at City Hall, our School Song was ‘heralded as a great success by the girls’ (Annual Report, 2000).

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