DEAREST MOTHER... (2015)
Soprano, viola, piano
Duration: 12 minutes
Commissioned for Halcyon to commemorate the centenary of WWI.
Premiere: 7 November 2015. Sydney, Australia
Dearest Mother… uses text taken from ‘Queenie: Letters from an Australian Army Nurse, 1915-1917’, with kind permission from Pat Richardson, Anne Skinner, and Queenie’s family.
Edith (‘Queenie’) Florence Avenell (-1936) was a hospital nurse and matron born in the Queensland town of Gympie. She enlisted for service the day after the ANZAC alliance stormed the beaches of Gallipoli, embarking from Sydney aboard the Mooltan on 15 May 1915. The ship travelled along the southern coastline of Australia to Fremantle, then departed for Egypt. During the war Queenie was stationed in Egypt, France and England, before returning home and being discharged from the Australian Army Nursing Service on 17 January 1919.
The collection of letters that Queenie wrote to her mother during her years of service demonstrate insight into the life of a vibrant, young nurse who is passionate about the patients under her care. The early letters paint the picture of an excited, inquisitive young woman, experiencing new places and cultures, and socialising with the other servicemen and women. As the war continues, Queenie endures the cold European winters and becomes increasingly more worn down by the reality of war.