by Nance Haxton

The latest creation in a special project commissioning new classical compositions for didgeridoo will have its world premiere at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre on Sunday afternoon October 22.

Global Rivers Rising will feature Wakka Wakka man Chris Williams playing didgeridoo alongside Grammy award winning composer John Jorgenson, who will play guitar and mandolin in the premiere work.

The Southern Cross Soloists (SXS) Didgeridoo Commissioning Project aims to create a canon of classical work featuring the didgeridoo over a decade, in the leadup to the Brisbane Olympics in 2032.

Chris Williams, who is also the Artist in Residence for SXS, says it’s exciting to be involved in, as it will create unique musical works for the world to enjoy for generations to come.

“With a collaboration of the didgeridoo and the classical music ensemble the Southern Cross Soloists (SXS) we’ve embarked on a ten-year journey to write new works for didgeridoo and classical music,” Williams says.

“We found when we got together that there wasn’t a lot of music written and we really wanted to expand the body of works and create a canon of new music and really explore the capabilities and possibilities of the instrument of the digeridoo within the classical music context.

“So the ten-year legacy project is leading up until the Brisbane Olympics in 2032 so by that time we’ll have ten years worth of music – three new works every year – we’re a few years into the process and absolutely loving it.”

Chris Williams says while composing the piece with Jorgenson they collaborated on how best to use the copious textures and tones of the didgeridoo, as well as how to notate the music for future performers.

“We’re into the second year of the project we’ve been writing music for probably three years.

“This is the first year where we’ve started to broaden the introduction of other genres within the classical music and digeridoo context.

“Now for this concert on Sunday we’ve got the legendary Grammy award winning guitarist from the USA John Jorgenson who is a phenomenal player, an incredible composer and instrumentalist himself and he’s bringing a whole other depth and layers to the project and how we’re approaching the new music that we’re writing for Southern Cross.”

John Jorgenson says he has wanted to be part of a truly world music project such as this for many years.

“I think that as we move ahead in the future, music is going to join together and there will be almost like a gigantic hybrid of all of these things,” Jorgenson says.

“So my goal in this piece was to bring some of those elements in and show how closely related that we all are culturally as humans, as spirits, as musicians.

“And it’s been a fantastic process to work with Chris because it’s almost like, I don’t want to admit that we didn’t have to work that hard, because he understood instinctively almost everything that I was hearing in my mind, and then was able to take that and run with it and bring even more to the collaboration. So it’s really been fantastic.”

Jorgenson says he was astounded by the power of the didgeridoo and its range of sounds.

“I love the sound of the didgeridoo and it can create so many different timbres and feelings. It’s very evocative, and I wanted to kind of push the boundaries a little bit just to see what more the instrument can bring along with these other instruments,” he says.

He says musical projects such as these that cross cultural divides can provide wider hope in a world full of conflict.

“Music and culture, everyone has that in their soul and their spirit and their community,” Jorgenson says.

“That’s something that we all share, and if there’s any fraction of what we do in a performance that can remind people of that, of their similarities instead of their differences, then I feel like we’ve done a lot.

“I feel honoured also to create, as Chris said, a body of work featuring this instrument that hopefully 50 to 100 years from now, people will be able to play this music in the same way that we play Beethoven and Mozart and music from a couple hundred years ago. So that’s what I hope as well.”

Chris Williams agrees with this sentiment.

“I think there’s just so much power in unity and music really transcends so much of what’s happening in the world at the moment,” Williams says.

“I don’t think this could come at a more critical and poignant time to be sharing and doing what we’re doing. It’s just really special project and extremely grateful to be a part of it, to be honest.”