A conversation with the sky

Moorambilla Voices has commissioned William Yaxley to write music for the regional boys choir and the result is the breathtaking Kirralaa. What makes this composer tick?

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116 Moorambilla Residency Camp, Aug, 2016_Noni Carroll

Will writes music in two very different genres – ethereal sacred music and musical theatre. “I love story telling and music that serves a theatrical purpose, like humorous theatre that mocks what’s happening in society. But I also come from a strong spiritual music background, and it equally has an influence on my writing” he says.

“That’s why I love writing choral music – using text and harmony to create an emotional impact for an audience. There’s something about beautifully tuned voices. It sends shivers up my spine,” he laughs.



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Will has been singing since he was eight and remembers feeling an incredible buzz on hearing his music performed at high school. “From there I was hooked,” he says. “Then it was big band competitions and study at the Sydney University Conservatorium of Music, majoring in composition with a minor in education.”

Working with Moorambilla, his favourite instrument has to be the voice. He counts among his influences a mix of composers, from contemporary Australian choral artists like Paul Stanhope, Peter Sculthorpe, Matthew Hindson and Stephen Leek, to Benjamin Britten and iconic music theatre composer Steven Sondheim.

“I also write about humorous things that happen to me like a possum running on the roof or a dripping tap,” he laughs.

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“Moorambilla Voices is such an inspiring environment for me. Composing for the boys choir means I can unleash my love of story-telling, and work with choreography and dance, visual art and lighting.”

Will has written Kirralaa for the boys, a lyrical piece inspired by the artistic and cultural immersion at the Mount Grenfell Historic Site. It tells the story of a star (kirralaa in Ngiyampaa language) and Will is orchestrating it for the eight strings of the Australian World Orchestra chamber ensemble, soprano saxophone, taiko percussion with Taikoz and the six voices of The Song Company.

“Moorambilla gives me an incredible opportunity to work with a huge number of kids. On top of that it’s exciting to work with someone as experienced as Michelle and to see her at work.”

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“I think anyone can be a composer and I really like to be part of this process with Michelle that allows children to see that opportunity. The kids who have never done it before can walk away and leave something written behind them. That’s pretty awesome.”

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William Yaxley’s residency at Moorambilla Voices is in partnership with Sydney University Conservatorium of Music.

Text: Lliane Clarke
Photography: Noni Carroll.

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