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R J BURLING
SINGER, MUSICIAN, SONGWRITER, ARRANGER, PRODUCER AND RECORDING ENGINEER

R J Burling


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I cannot really say when I began to write my own music, but it was certainly at an early age. For as long as I can remember, I had access to my Grandmother’s pianola that had pride of place in the lounge room of my grandparents’ home. When I was there, I was allowed to go and play that piano and, while I did not realise it at the time, I actually did some early composing. In 2002 while packing up to move from Armidale, I found an old music score booklet that had dates of 1959 and 1960 written in it and the scrawled music notes (good for a child who could not read music) were certainly original. My Grandmother often commented (as I recall), on days I had been playing on the piano for a while, about having been writing new songs but I always dismissed it by telling her that I was just playing music. She obviously knew some things that I did not know at the time.

The piano where it all began
The piano where it all began (I now own this pano)


That would hardly be surprising because she had an opera singing background and, while never making it in that field, her voice was always a delight to listen to, something I had regular opportunities to do in church during my childhood years. My Grandmother (and I have to define that I am talking of my paternal Grandmother) was not the only grandparent with music. Her husband, my paternal Grandfather, was also a good singer and, sometimes when we were down the paddock in those childhood years, he would sing and encourage me to sing with him. On my mother’s side, both grandparents were also musical. Primarily, they were organists and, certainly during the 50's and 60's, they actually shared a unique honour of being the only husband and wife (at the time, at least) to have ever been admitted to the Royal Fellowship of Organists. Now that is some musical heritage to be blessed with.

My parents could sing but their avenue of music was in old time dancing, something that in their latter years, they excelled at, winning many accolades and honours for what, in the words of one judge, was their “skill at the movements and their perfect sense of timing”.

As my siblings and I grew up, we were always surrounded by music and encouraged in any undertaking we did in the field of music. At one stage in life, all of us had a turn in the music game.

Apart from the tinkling of the ivories in those pre-teen days, the other instrument that I became very keen with was the drums. This really started when, climbing around the attic of one of the sheds on the property one day, I discovered an old home made drum kit (bass, snare and two tom toms, hi hat and a cymbal). These turned out to be a set my paternal Grandfather had made using ply wood , steel and kangaroo skins (the pedals, hi hat and cymbal were factory made). At that point in time, music became a serious part of my life and I was blessed by having a great teacher in those early days called Max Richards. Max was a senior boy at our school and a very good drummer and he taught me the drums as part of music at school. Max went on, in the years that followed, to be part of a quite popular country music band called Men Of Country. The interest in drums, however, did not stop my love of the piano.

I went away to boarding school for my secondary education and my parents did give me the opportunity to take piano lessons, which I opted to decline. That, as you will see later, is something I never regretted. However, my secondary schooling did bring me into contact with some like minded boys and, together, we developed an interest in singing. It was during this period of my development that I discovered that I had a natural talent for singing harmonies. My voice range wasn’t that suited to lead singing but I could do both low and high harmonies with ease (something the school music teacher could not comprehend - how I could go both but not be good at the main vocals).

University opened up more doors and it wasn’t long before three of us guys at the hostel had formed a band with 2 guitars and me on drums. Strangely, I got the job as lead vocalist as Stephen Yow and Terry Grose were not really vocalists at all. Terry was both a well taught guitar player, could read music and was a good musical arranger. From Terry, I started to develop an interest in the guitar and develop an ability to harmonise  instruments as well as the voices part I already had. It was also a time when I started to consider the aspect of seriously writing music. After a time, Terry decided to return to Western Australia and a Philippino guy, also a resident at the hostel, stepped in as a guitarist. With Terry, we had concentrated on the pop/rock scene but the change in lineup saw me move to lead guitar as Manuel Nobleza played bass. Our style changed to a folk/rock. Just three songs survive on recording from that period - two with Terry and one with Manuel. This band (with both lineups) was called The Blue Knights. During this time I had also been accepted into the combined Sydney choir for the annual Easter performance of The Messiah, participation which never took place as I left Sydney.

Blue Knights
Blue Knghts: L-R - Terry Grose, Bob Burling (drums) Stephen Yow

Blue Knights
Blue Knights: L-R - Bob Burling. Stephen Yow,
Manuel Nobleza


In 1968 I left university to follow a career in electronics and that led me to Bingara, in northern NSW. I hadn’t been there long before I made it my home and met up with some guys interested in starting a band. The place was good for that as there was nothing in the town and the teenagers were crying out for a teen type pop band. The situation was just right.

The first band was originally called The No Names and consisted of Bill Blundell (lead guitar), Wayne Galvin (rhythm guitar and vocals), Edward Mansfield (drums) and myself on bass and lead vocals. In the early days my eldest sister, Betty, also sang vocals. It didn’t take long before we were travelling the district to other towns to play at school dances and local clubs. Edward left the band and my bother, Peter, and his mate, Michael Brown, jointly took over the drumming role. At this point, the letters of the bands name were reshuffled to become The Semanons. During this period of time, several of my own songs were featured in the bands repertoire, and were always well received.

The Semanons
The Semanons line-up. L - R: Bill Blundell, Wayne Galvin, Michael Brown (drums) and Bob Burling


The band continued for 18 months, then differences of direction caused the band to split. I was still more interested in the pop market and took on the daunting task of teaching, almost from scratch, three guys to play musical instruments with the idea of filling at least the void for school dances that now existed. Michael Brown joined the band to learn bass, Paul Kam to learn rhythm guitar and John Gill on the drums. We were blessed in getting a basically unused small hall to practice in and where we could leave our gear instead of having to lug it home. For the next 6 months it was 3 hours a night, 2 nights a week teaching, practising and guiding three guys that nobody thought could do it. One man, however, did have faith in us, Bruce Batterham, the local newsagent. It just so happened that his business was just behind our hall and he listened, on many nights, to our progress. He came to practise one night and told us he was organising a fund raising concert and he wanted us on the lineup. The other three were not that sure but I believed they were ready and, obviously, so did Bruce. For the next month we practiced 4 songs (we needed three for the concert). Stage jitters were a part of the night, especially for the other 3, but we made it through, and the band was now in the public eye and we got a booking for the local school from that very night (1971). We were on our way. The band had started as Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras
This grainy photo was taken at that first performance of Mardi Gras L-R, Paul Kam, Bob Burling,
John Gill (drums) and Michael Brown.
After a few months, the band decised to Change it's name and by the time we were in regulat bookings (weekly at least) the band had bcome known as Exodus.

The next 12 months saw the band grow from strength to strength and bookings rolled in from a wide area, which was really exciting. During this period of time my music writing really started to come together though I was frustrated by the fact that I was still only writing pop songs. During this period of time we were blessed with a couple of really good female singers in Robyn Cobcroft and Diane Little. Good voices that just strengthened the band in many ways. Paul departed the band to join the army and was replaced by Phillip Pleffer. Phillip actually spent a month with the band before Paul left and during that period of time we had a very solid sound.

Robyn Cobcroft
Robyn Cobcroft

Exodus
Part of the Exodus Line up: John Gill on drums and Phillip Pleffer


Up until this time, my musical influence came from a number of sources but most notably from The Hollies, The Atlantics, Cliff Richard and The Shadows, Elvis Presley and, to a lesser extent, The Beatles. During this period I started to develop a desire for a greater depth in my writing and there were a number of bands that influenced me over the coming years. Among these were The Moody Blues, Yes, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin,  Cream and Hawkwind.  The first three (along with others) really grabbed my attention with the idea of concept albums where the whole album was a single theme and, in some cases, actually had a story. This was a return, in my mind, to the work of composers such as Tchaikovsky, a long standing favourite of mine (in fact the very first album I ever purchased was Swan Lake). I longed to be able to do the same.

It was now 1973 and musicals such as Superstar and Godspell were also around but they lacked in certain areas. Superstar was a non-Christian view of the Gospel story that really missed the mark. Godspell, on the other hand, was reasonably on target but was far to short.

I was well and truly into my music and was really starting ‘boil’ in my spiritual development and growth. I was actively involved with the band and was also experimenting with special youth services to further the youth work I was actively involved with in the church. The band had really sharpened my music, both in playing as well as writing music for the band. There was also a desire in the back of my mind to write something with substance.

Around the beginning of April,1973 I felt that something was in the air and, as Easter drew closer, I became aware that the time was upon me. In the week leading up to Easter I started to put all external music out of my head. The band practiced two nights a week but after the Tuesday night practice, we decided not to practice again that week, as we had no bookings over Easter (the first weekend in many months). I then decided not to listen to radio or watch TV for the rest of the week, so that my head was really clear (for someone like me who listened constantly to music, this was quite an experience). On the Thursday night I set up the room in my house that I used as a music room, having brought all my gear back from the hall where we practiced (we had a room in which to store all our band equipment).

Good Friday (Friday 20th April, 1973) dawned and I knew it was on. I even decided not to go to the Good Friday Service. At 10am that morning I entered my music room and the experience that followed was indescribable. From that time until 2am next morning I prayed, wrote, arranged and recorded (using a multitrack reel to reel tape recorder I owned). I had followed Luke’s Gospel (for some reason I really like Luke and the way he wrote). The last bit of arranging and recording done, I collapsed into bed. Unsure of what I had done because I actually hadn’t listened to any of the finished product.

It was nearly 11am when I surfaced on Saturday and, after breakfast, went back into the music room to listen to what I had created. What was on that tape was roughly 90 minutes of music that really blew my mind. I couldn’t believe what I had created but I knew it was very different. This work was simply called The Son

My music had taken a real turn with this, though I was well aware that I was never likely to be able to produce this musical in somewhere like Bingara. Two other musicals followed - one was Christian and much shorter than The Son. This was That Long Dark Road. This was followed by a concept album titled In Search Of Life, a duet album that was recorded live to a private audience with just two people (guitarists and singers) and explored the questions about life. All the tracks in this album were long ones with the 4 tracks lasting 50 minutes. However, the album was not released until 2012.

Exodus continued until the economy of the time dictated that I needed to leave for better work pastures. Exodus did its final performance in late 1974 and I moved to Armidale.

I chose to re-think my music path and explore the ever growing desire I had for the idea of concept music. However, many things changed. I got involved with a folk group for about 18 months and at the end of that period I became involved with a combined churches music group that put on four Christian musicals, an experience that I really enjoyed.

Having had a prolific writing time while in Bingara, my song writing became an almost drought for a number of years. In those early years in Armidale, I undertook specialist training in audio engineering, something that was of great help to my music, to sound production in general, and to the recording and mixing aspect of music. As a result of this experience, I recorded and released the first Elhenan album, Take What I Am, as a cassette release. These were songs, mostly written in Bingara, that had already been written. This album was later remixed and released on CD.

Then came a new experience in the early 90's. I had moved to a Pentecostal church and become involved with the church music team. Once again I was writing, only now it was predominantly Christian music. In the first church I was involved, we hardly did any of my own material but then I became involved with a church that had get up and go and I was writing, for a while, a new song every fortnight (sometimes more than one) and these were being played all the time at church. This was exciting for me and really helped me with confidence and presentation.

From there it was yet another experience. I was invited to lead the music team at an aboriginal church and that also had exciting experiences and further allowed me to write. It also taught me about free expression music, something Aboriginals are really good at. Recorded music in association with this aspect of my music was done under the name of Elhenan and performances in this area took me to many places. Elhenan continues as my Christian music recording band.

Two gospel albums were recorded in this era but one was not released at the time.

I also returned to some mixed performing in the clubs with a disco unit, where I also did some live performances. I enjoyed the accompaniment of a couple of very good young female vocalists during that time. The performances saw the revival of an old name, Semanon, under which I was now doing all my secular music.

I also got more deeply involved in my concept writing and the last two albums I wrote and recorded in Armidale were both concept albums. The first was a Semanon album called Rocking Forward To The Past and was a nostalgic look at my life story in music, co-produced by a young woman, Jo Rapley, who did my mixing for the discos and performances.

The other album was done under the banner of InstrumentalOz and was an instrumental look at the Book of Genesis. In this album I really explored the use of electronic music and synthetic music, allowing me access to a full range of instruments to better express the feelings I wanted each track to convey. This aspect was to lead into something in the coming years.

In the middle of 2002 I packed up and left Armidale. This move ultimately turned my world upside down but that also turned out for the best for my music. Thus began what was to be the third chapter of my musical career. I found myself now living in Inverell.

Because of a number of things, I threw myself into my music and part of my performance aspect was a pleasurable thing in taking part in karaoke at a local club. It wasn’t long before I had gained a reputation and there was a couple of young ladies with whom I sang duets on a regular basis. But it was not fulfilling, because I was only doing other people’s music and not my own.

In contrast, my writing was becoming quite prolific again. During the latter part of 2002, as things settled down a bit from the beginning of the year, I started to look at some serious new approaches to my music. I needed challenges and new horizons.

One thing that I did do was to decide not to get too involved in public performances and to be very selective about what I did. The karaoke was a fun and relaxing way to go and allowed me to do some experimenting with other people’s music. But the rest was to be mostly on a Christian basis, limiting my public performances to special concerts that were strictly my own music and to limited involvement in church music teams. The Pentecostal church was very different in Inverell to what I had been used to in Armidale and while I was able to exert some influence on the music of teams I played with, it usually upset others who were not generally ready for the free movement of that type of music - they preferred to stay with commercial modern gospel rather than spirit led. Album wise, I finalised a couple of albums from Armidale (ones that had been written, recorded, partly mixed but never completed) and it was a year of regrouping. One album from Semanon, one from Elhenan (a co-operative writing with my youngest sister, Marion Ryan) and one, a new aspect, was an album of children’s songs (Maximilion Mouse), released under the name of Uncle Bob (as it was originally written for my young niece).

Moving in to 2003, I returned to my grass roots (in a way) and went back to doing some instrumental work. There had been many women who had influenced my life in both positive and negative ways. I opted to try and capture something of each of these people (some who had been very close in my life and other who had been just good friends), so instrumentally, was the best way. I took two songs that I had written back when I was in Bingara as vocal numbers and reworked them as instrumentals. Thus 14 tracks were crafted into an album called Instrumentally Remembered and released under the name I had used for the Genesis album (InstrumentalOz).

Then came what was to be a major point in my life. Little did I realise what I was about to let myself into early in 2004. I cannot remember when I first had the desire to transform The Book Of The Revelation into music, but each time I thought seriously about it, I became frightened at the idea, because I did not want the curse that the last chapter of the book lays out (that any one who adds or subtracts from the book would be punished) to apply to me. However, God kept putting the thought back into my head until finally I made a start.

As if that choice wasn’t enough, there was another project on the horizon as well. My love for classical music has been there all my life but it was only ever a “listening thing”. However as the year progressed I kept having this crazy notion to write a symphony. Now this was a challenge, because I really had no idea of the actual structure of such a work, so there was a lot of study into styles, structures and instrumentation. Finally in September of 2004, Symphony For Svetlana was released and this attracted some attention from overseas where friends who were really into classical music (one lady was a cellist in a national symphony orchestra in Belarus) and that gave me much encouragement. Being the rule breaker that I am in my music, I had breached the rules (in a way) by introducing a different instrument into the woodwind section - a didgeridoo - simply to create an Australian atmosphere in the last movement.

In 2004 I also re-associated myself with an Aboriginal church. I had known the pastor of the Tingha Fellowship from my days in Armidale and had, on a couple of occasions, played guitar with his band. This move gave me a much deeper understanding of the culture, their way of doing music and, introduced me to a songwriter. Pastor Paul had a really great influence on my free style of both playing and writing and we actually wrote and sang songs together.

This association highlighted itself with the release of Homesick For Heaven in September of 2005. The title for the album came from a throwaway line from Pastor Paul one night. Before the meeting was over, the entire song had been written. This was a regular experience, as the preachers in that church were constantly giving me subject material and I always had my notebook and pen in church. Many of the songs on this album were written that way. What was good was that the songs were regularly used in meetings and on outreach trips I took with the church to other communities.

In 2005 I decided that another Semanon album was needed and so quite a lot of my spare time (in between outreach trips with the church and other things that were happening in my life, like work) preparing, writing and recording tracks for Black Leather And Lace, which was released in October of that year.

The next few years saw an absence of recording because, in addition to doing writing for what had become a major project (The Revelation Suite), I was also getting involved with what was to become another influence in my life.

Towards the end of 2008, I took up on something that had been much a part of my life from personal experience and from my role as a youth worker. This was the aspect of dealing with victims of abuse. We are all acutely aware of child abuse but this, really, is only the tip of the iceberg and, while probably being the root of all the other forms of abuse, is the only one that gets high profile publicity. Sadly, abuse often ends up in the suicide of the victim.

Through this, an experience of my own and a group of online friends from all around the world, a group was formed whose sole purposes were to provide encouragement and support for all victims of abuse and to raise the awareness of the high level of abuse. The sad statistic is that at least one in every four people has experienced abuse, in some way or other, much of this being in the workplace and through sources that was to shock many people. It was also the awakening, for me, to the fact that so much of what had happened in my life was directly attributed to the abuse I was subjected to in my high school days.

Thus, at the beginning of January 2009, Crying In The Silence was formed, a website established and we started creating a list of services and resources in many countries that were able to help in this fight. This is where my music came in. By the end of January, 2009, the theme song for the group had been written and recorded and in what was a fairly unique project, the song was turned into a video with the help of people from all around the world. That video is to be found on YouTube. Over the next 15 months a number of songs aimed directly at the fight against abuse, were written and co-written for the project. These, along with a few other ‘social issues’ songs were put together on an album entitled Socially Restructured, recorded by White Arrow, which was released in March of 2010. Since that time, several other songs have been written and there are plans for a second album of social songs for the future.

After this release, time was turned to another Elhenan album as a lot of material had been written and recorded and needed to be put together and finished. Thus in October of 2010, Same River - Fresh Breeze was released and this album included a duet with Paul Munro, who had co-written some of the song. This album also saw a couple of prophetic songs.

All through this, in addition to The Revelation Suite, another musical project had been moving nicely along. This was a set of six mini musicals that were tied together in a single major production released as From The Garden To The City - the journey from the Garden Of Eden (Genesis) to the end time end time home of Heaven in Revelation. Each of the mini musicals was done on a theme that could allow small groups and churches to do just that one theme, rather than trying to attack a complete musical of almost 2 hours in length. This album was completed and released in February 2012.

That month also saw the completion of another longstanding project that dealt with the theme of time and was a series of songs (mostly instrumental) that were ‘time relevant’ - this album was Time Is But A Day.

Another album of songs had been recorded back in the late 90's but, for a number of reasons, had not been released. These songs were reworked, remixed and released as an Elhenan album called Warriors Of Zion. The bulk of these songs had been used as part of praise and worship in various churches in that era.

Then came another project. This one was not planned but just happened. So much is written about Good Friday but I suddenly realised there was no real telling of the entire Resurrection Day story (Easter). Over just a few months, this entire album was written and recorded and released in July of 2012. The album was entitled The Day That Changed The World. A lot of emphasis is put upon the death of Jesus and its importance to Christianity but many people have died for others (many of us actually know people who have died in things such as war so as to give people freedom) so I had often asked the question ‘Why was the death of Jesus, on its own, any different?’ Then I realised that it wasn’t just His death, but it was the fact that He came back from the dead. Without the resurrection, His death was no different. His resurrection was what made the difference and changed the world.

I then turned all my efforts into completing the project I had started back in 2004. It was a mammoth recording session that took place over several months but it finally came together. Now, eight and a half years later, I had finally finished this enormous project, travelling through so many changes and ideas in order to complete the task. Finally, The Revelation Suite could be released. Along the way, I have learnt much about my music; about the techniques (musical and technical) I had to master; about myself; and about the awesome reality of where mankind is heading with respect to the end of time. In those years, I have lost track of how many times I have read through that book, in a variety of different translations, through a variety of different phases in my own life and under a wide range of circumstances. The Book Of The Revelation has so much in it that I doubt that any one person could ever honestly say that they understood everything in it. However, when you read it through with an open mind and heart, you will be guaranteed of learning something new each time. That makes it the book that it is. The album (all 150 minutes of it) was finally released to the public in October 2012.

Writing this music was blessed by the fact that I have never felt bound by the rules of formal music and have been able to "break many traditional music rules" in order to achieve what I have done. I believe that music should be a true expression of what is within you and the "rules" that surround music, while being helpful, can be very restrictive when you desire true expression. I believe that this work has ultimately allowed me to fully and freely express myself. As God gave me each piece of music over those years (keeping in mind that for every part contained in this work, there were 4 other pieces of music that I wrote) each time was an experience that left a mark on me as I felt the awesome power that is God and as I gained a gradual insight into how John must have felt at this experience. I know that I have certainly felt insignificant and yet empowered as I worked through this work.

It was finally, through this writing, that I came to the full realisation of just how blessed I was to have never had any formal music training. Sure, I had had many teachers who had shown me many techniques and skills through those years (and I still love to watch and listen to other performers to see what I can learn from them) but there was never any formal music. That has meant that I am not bound by the rules that come with formal music and allow myself to express the feeling of the message of the music, regardless of what rules I may appear to have broken. This also applied to combinations of instruments that I used in some arrangements and writing.

Writing has continued since the release of this album though with much less pressure and will,  and no doubt will continue for many years to come.

As 2013 dawned, I commenced the full scale production of The Son and I have an intention of making sure that every piece of music I have ever written is finally recorded properly. This album was finally completed and released early in 2014.

During 2014 a number of other projects were completed. The first of these was the W.H.I.T.E.album (Worship Him In Tranquil Exhiliration), an album of meditational music with some quite extensive tracks. The writing of these had been done over many years and recorded as written, but never released.

Then there was the production of the second Antholgy album (Anthology 2) as I recorded much of that early music I had written into an acceptable quality (two more, at least) such albums are envisaged). This was released in September of 2014.

Meanwhile, work had been progressing on another project. Over a number of years a series of praise songs for children were being written, as I really believe this is a very neglected area in the modern church. Finally there was enough material and the recording of Junior Praise was completed for release on the 1st November, 2014. There were 15 tracks on this album that had simple structure (often a single verse that is repeated) so as to make them easy for children (especially the younger ones) to learn and present.

The next release was the Elhenan album, Storm Calmer, released on the 1st of December, 2014. This album is more rock oriented than previous Elhenan  albums, with several tracks making it to the heavy rock classification. This album also reflects the approaching end time and many of the songs contain this theme.





DISCOGRAPHY

The songs on all of these albums are written or co-written by R J Burling.

YEAR refers basically to the year of release

YEAR

ALBUM TITLE

ARTIST

DATE

GENRE

1990 Take What I Am Elhenan Jul 1990 Christian
2002 Genesis InstrumentalOz Mar 2002 Instrumental
2002 Lifting Up To Him Elhenan Jun 2002 Christian
2002 Maximillion Mouse Uncle Bob Oct 2002 Children's
2002 Seed Of Faith And Love Elhenan Nov 2002 Christian
2002 Anthology 1 Semanon Nov 2002 Rock/Pop
2002 Rocking Forward To The Past Semanon Nov 2002 Rock/Pop
2003 Instrumentally Remembered InstrumentalOz Oct 2003 Instrumental
2004 Symphony For Svetlana InstrumentalOz Sep 2004 Classical
2005 Homesick For Heaven Elhenan Sep 2005 Christian
2005 Black Leather And Lace Semanon Oct 2005 Rock/Pop
2010 Socially Restructured White Arrow Mar 2010 Social
2010 Same River - Fresh Breeze Elhenan Oct 2010 Christian
2012 From The Garden To The City Original Cast Feb 2012 Christian
2012 Time Is But A Day InstrumentalOz & Semanon Feb 2012 Concept
2012 In Search Of Life Messengers Of Life Mar 2012 Concept
2012 Warriors Of Zion Elhenan Apr 2012 Christian
2012 The Day That Changed The World Elhenan Jul 2012 Christian
2012 The Revelation Suite Original Cast Oct 2012 Christian
2014 The Son Original Cast Apr 2014 Christian
2014 W.H.I.T.E. InstrumentalOz Aug 2014 Instrumental
2014 Anthology 2 Semanon Sep 2014 Rock/Pop
2014 Junior Praise Uncle Bob Nov 2014 Christian
2014 Storm Calmer Elhenan Dec 2014 Christian





















Anthology 3 Semanon TBA Rock/Pop

Anthology 4 Semanon TBA Rock/Pop

YEAR refers basically to the year of  release.

DATE refers to the time the album was actually available.

ALBUM AVAILABILITY: All but 2 of these albums are currently available to download from the site. Anthology 3 & 4 will be available in the near future.