Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Yale Journal of Music and Religion


Yale Institute of Sacred Music


Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA)




Ryan, R. (2019). " No Human Ever Made a Cathedral Such as This": Scoping the Ecology of the Carols by Candlelight Effect in Australia's Open-Air Environment. Yale Journal of Music & Religion, 5(2), 5.


During Australia’s dry December, traditional and popular forms of caroling shape the sight and sound of the key Christian festival of Christmas. Creative connections between belief, place, and music are characteristically manifest in focused open-air environments of beach, bushland or park. Reasoning from gospel belief that the very first “Christmas carol” emanated from a heavenly host of angels singing to an audience of shepherds in a field, caroling alfresco is an appropriate activity. How, then, do Australian caroling venues become conducive to environmental spheres of sound and influence? While the annual mass Carols by Candlelight concerts televised from Melbourne and Sydney elaborate quasi-hysterically on familiar themes, local churches produce diversified candlelit events in ecumenical public space. Based on research into the ecological connections between the caroling public and multi-sited land- and sound-scapes, the article considers the influence of these environments on national performance practices. With respect to a body of Australian carols referencing iconic landscape imagery, I scope the aurality of concerts vis-a-vis their capacity for promoting respect for creation. Ideally, singing from "inside the soundscape” (after Westerkamp 2001) engages the resonances between participatory caroling and the poetics of southern hemisphere nonhuman sound. It is proposed, moreover, that the inclusion of previously silenced Indigenous voices at caroling events might enhance public understanding of the nation’s past and present. Potential remains for images of the nativity event so richly reflected in Aboriginal Christian art to be expressed, complementarily, in Indigenous carols.



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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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