“… a composition of immense depth, humanity and expression.” – Hilary Shrubb, The Australian, 18 January 2002

Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker in his short lifetime revolutionised jazz improvisation, changing the face of jazz forever and shaping the course of 20th century music. Pulitzer prize winning poet Yusef Komunyakaa¹s epic poem Testimony provides the libretto for this new musical work composed by Sandy Evans paying homage to this jazz great.

Testimony at the Opera House Forecourt, Sydney

This moving testimony to Parker’s genius is a milestone in Australian music theatre.

In 1995 ABC producer Christopher Williams envisioned a piece for radio with jazz as its central theme. He joined the creative forces of Evans and Komunyakaa, Professor at Princeton University and elected to The Academy of American Poets. This led to the commissioning of Testimony by the ABC with assistance from the Australia Council. The piece was successfully transformed into a stage show by The Australian Art Orchestra in 2002.

In August 1999 Testimony was broadcast on ABC¹s Soundstage. Komunyakaa’s extraordinary libretto, comprising 14 sonnets for voice, took several years to complete. Sandy Evans’ score explores Charlie Parker’s influence on an eclectic range of popular music, and in particular bebop. She is inspired by Parker’s ideas and makes no attempt to recreate or copy Parker’s unique style of performance. The result is remarkably rich and evocative, encompassing a wide range of musical styles and performers.

“I remember the exhilaration I felt when I first heard a recording of Charlie Parker. The energy, virtuosity, passion, innovation, spontaneity, intelligence and sheer beauty of his playing remain to this day an artistic pinnacle that I will never come close to reaching, but for which I am constantly striving.

“In writing the music for Testimony I have been challenged and inspired not only by the life and music of Bird and his contemporaries, but also by the extraordinary way in which Yusef has told Bird’s story. The power of his words and the rhythmic and melodic structure of his text led naturally to the song forms that I have chosen for each piece.”

The ABC recording

This recording of Testimony includes many of Sydney’s leading jazz musicians, with narration by Michael Edward-Stevens.

Unfortunately this recording is not been commercially released, but assistance with this would be much appreciated! Contact Sandy for more information.

Bernie Mc Gann (alto)
Paul Cutlan (bass clarinet, alto)
Casey Greene (baritone, flute)
Sandy Evans (tenor, flute)
Warwick Alder
Bob Coassin
James Greening
Jeremy Sawkins
Dave Brewer
Piano and Keyboards
Chuck Yates
Alister Spence
Lloyd Swanton
Steve Elphick
Jonathan Zwartz
Drums and Percussion
Allan Turnbull
Hamish Stuart
Fabian Hevia
Simon Barker

Kristen Cornwell
Kate Swadling
Jackie Orszaczky
Toni Allayialis
Tanya Sparke
Pamela Knowles
Tina Harrod
Joe Lane
Michele Morgan
Lily Dior

As well as interstate guest from Queensland
John Rodgers

and International guests
Kurt Elling
Laurence Hobgood

The Australian Art Orchestra

“one of the most memorable festival shows in Sydney for a very long time.” Keith Gallasch – Real Time

“In 2001 I was delighted when the Australian Art Orchestra, a group overflowing with brilliant soloists and original thinkers, expressed interest in performing Testimony live. I was extremely fortunate to receive the full support of Paul Grabowsky and The Australian Art Orchestra, The Sydney Opera House, The Sydney Festival and the Melbourne Festival. to create and present the live performances of Testimony.”

Testimony is directed by Nigel Jamieson with Design by Dan Potra and Andrew Savage

Lighting design by John Rayment and Musical Direction by Paul Grabowsky and Sandy Evans.

The first performances were in The Concert Hall of The Sydney Opera House in January 2002. The piece was later performed in Melbourne and Adelaide and outdoors at The Sydney Opera House.

“ingenious set design and artful integration of sound, space and image” – Jessica Nicholas

Under the direction of Nigel Jamieson, it just seemed to come together like magic.

A giant, semi-transparent film screen depicting a New York tenement dropped to reveal 15 members of the Australian Art Orchestra sitting, silhouetted in a three-tier scaffold of the building’s framework. Patrick McDonald, The Advertiser, 10 July 2003

More information

There is an extensive site about Testimony on the Australian Art Orchestra website.

The Australian Art Orchestra is currently investigating opportunities for overseas performances of the work.

Read more reviews here


Sandy would like to express her gratitude to the huge list of people who have made Testimony possible.