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11 March 2021

Grigoryan Brothers compose an original suite of music inspired by historic objects

The National Museum of Australia in Canberra has commissioned renowned guitarists Slava and Leonard Grigoryan to compose a suite of music inspired by historic collection objects to celebrate the 20th anniversary of its opening.

In their first-ever album of all original compositions, the brothers produced deeply personal responses to 18 objects. The premiere performance of these compositions will take place in an intimate concert – This is us: A musical reflection of Australia – at the Museum on Thursday 11 March 2021.

The concert is the first in a series of events and exhibitions planned to mark the Museum’s 20th birthday year. These include the unveiling of highlight objects from the recently acquired Trevor Kennedy collection; the opening of the new Discovery Centre and an environmental gallery, Great Southern Land; and a major exhibition from the British Museum – Ancient Greeks: Athletes, Warriors and Heroes.

The Museum opened its doors at Acton on 11 March 2001. The institution was formally established by the National Museum of Australia Act in 1980 to preserve and interpret Australia’s social history, exploring the key issues, people and events that have shaped the nation.

National Museum director Dr Mathew Trinca said: ‘This is an important milestone for the Museum, which although a relatively young institution, is responsible for telling the stories of our nation reaching back at least 65,000 years.'

‘We are keenly looking forward to the next 20 years, as Australia navigates its way in a complex, shifting world, and to recording our experiences and contributions.

‘We are delighted that the Grigoryan Brothers have produced this remarkable suite of music, which will be available for all Australians for generations to come.'

The Museum and the Grigoryan Brothers have partnered with ABC Classic to create a CD of the music. This is us: A musical reflection of Australia was recorded in an Adelaide studio after the brothers spent months composing from their homes in different cities, as a result of COVID-19.

Slava Grigoryan said: ‘This has been so special for us on so many different levels. The collaboration with the Museum is incredibly inspiring and this is also our first full album of all original material. We have never done a project with nothing but our own music, so being in a studio for that kind of experience was very intense.’

The concert on 11 March 2021 will be the first time the brothers have performed together since March last year, when they were separated by the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns.

Leonard Grigoryan said: ‘The pandemic was a bit of a strange blessing in that during a regular year, we don’t know how we would have accomplished this, because we are usually on the road so much. We had the gift of time for composition, which we wouldn’t ordinarily have had.’

During its 20th anniversary year, the Museum will celebrate the opening of a new gallery featuring interactive and immersive digital experiences that tell stories of Australia’s unique environment and natural history.

Great Southern Land will explore the vast Australian continent, its ancient origins, geological features, unique species, natural forces, and the part humans play in the ecosystem. It will feature more than 1200 objects, many of which have never been displayed before.

Dr Trinca said: ‘Visitors to Great Southern Land, will be immersed in the incredible ecological and natural history of the Australian continent and reflect on the role they play in this important and challenging story.’

The Discovery Centre, opening later this year, will be a fun space for children and families, where young visitors can explore the Museum’s stories through play-based and hands-on experiences.

‘This dynamic and educational space will spark curiosity, stimulate imagination and build knowledge. The Discovery Centre will also function as an ever-changing workshop for events, programs and functions,’ Dr Trinca said.

Another highlight of the anniversary year will be an exhibition unveiling key objects from the recently acquired Trevor Kennedy collection – the Museum’s largest and most significant purchase, valued at over $8 million. The Trevor Kennedy Collection: Highlights exhibition will feature more than 500 objects, including artworks, furniture, jewellery and ceramics that explore Australia’s history, culture and identity.

The year will end with the opening of a blockbuster exhibition from the British Museum – Ancient Greeks: Athletes, Warriors and Heroes – which was delayed last year because of the global pandemic. Ancient Greeks (16 December 2021 to 1 May 2022) explores the theme of competition through sports, politics, drama, music and warfare, illuminated by 170 objects from the British Museum’s collection.

Along with the This is us: A musical reflection of Australia CD of the Grigoryan Brothers’ music, ABC Classic will also produce a range of bespoke audio and digital content to showcase the 18 objects selected by the Grigoryans, and the music they created around them. Each morning from 9 to 26 March 2021, Classic Breakfast will broadcast one track and explore the history and impact of the object that inspired it, while on 27 and 28 March 2021 at 1pm the network will air special programs devoted to This Is Us.

Media contact: Tracy Sutherland 0438 620 710 or media@nma.gov.au

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