A life in song
by Rosie Schefe
Robin Mann and Dorothy Stiller first became an ‘item’ on 15 April 1966 as Year 12 students at Adelaide’s Immanuel College, sparking a lifelong musical collaboration as well as a marriage.
Their first performances, singing folk music, were for school houseconcerts. The partnership was so strong, musically and romantically, that it continued as Robin and Dorothy entered university and teachers college respectively, with the couple performing as a duo in clubs and churches around Adelaide. They were married late in 1969, immediately following Dorothy’s graduation from teachers college.
In 1969 Rev John Sabel (then tertiary chaplain) introduced a worship program at The University of Adelaide, where Robin helped lead the music. Rev Dr Les Grope (then pastor at St Stephen’s, Adelaide) organised the first Sunday evening worship services for students in 1970. Robin and Dorothy played at this first of the monthly services. They played at their last in 1998.
Following a performance at Scots Presbyterian Church in Adelaide in 1971, assistant minister Rod Jepsen asked Robin and Dorothy if they’d be interested in joining a band. Kindekrist was born, becoming one of Australia’s early Christian rock bands. The group produced four albums in the first decade and continued to perform together for another two. Although some of the musicians changed over time, the mixture of theological backgrounds largely held, appealing to a mainstream, ecumenically minded audience.
‘We played everywhere. One of our St Stephen’s services was televised and then another at St Peters [Adelaide’s Anglican Cathedral]’,
Robin said. The demands of recording and regular performance, especially for worship, meant that Robin’s song writing skills were brought to the fore and honed by necessity. ‘No-one else wrote the kind of church music that I wanted to hear’, he said.
Work began in 1979 on All Together Now, a project initiated by the LCA’s Board for Congregational Life (BCL). With Robin’s reputation as a songwriter well established, it was natural that a significant number of his songs were chosen by the selection committee. The first committee included Geoff Strelan, Neil Reichelt, Sharon and Craig Schlenker and Robin Mann.