Didgeridoo and orchestra ensemble to harmonise culture

Didgeridoo player William Barton has partnered with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra for a musical journey across the state.

They're aiming to collaborate with First Nations storytellers and song-makers on a song to country.

The ambitious undertaking to weave stories and language with song, music and creative expression is called Warrma piipa: ngatji patija; kutu patija; ngata waru (Songbook: My Story; Your Story; Our Journey).

A ceremony was held in Barton’s ancestral country of Mount Isa/Kalkadoon in August to begin the process of composing the song.

The journey will continue with Barton and the orchestra visiting communities for musical workshops including Cairns/Yarrabah, Rockhampton/Woorabinda, Gold Coast/Yugambeh and Charleville/Bidjara which is William’s mother’s country.

To close the circle of warrma piipa (songbook), they will return to Mt Isa/Kalkadoon.

“Warrma piipa is how I am using my voice together with the sonic force of the Queensland Symphony Orchestra, plus the intimacy of individual instruments to represent ideas and interpret the legacy of landscape, and the hope and potential of those who live on it," Barton said.

“I see warrma piipa as like the kangaroo sinew or twine, it symbolises fragility but also strength and the importance of the lullaby between different nations.

"This is the significant of warrma piipa, in bringing together two worlds, to work together and find new artists for the next generation."

QSO chief executive Yarmila Alfonzetti accompanied William and his mother Aunty Dalmae Barton, a singer, to Mount Isa for the ceremony.

“William has expanded the horizons of the didgeridoo and communicated a cultural landscape though music and song to audiences across the country and across the globe his whole life," Ms Alfonzetti said.

"He’s also had a 25 year relationship with QSO, which started when he was just 17 years old, and was invited to perform with the orchestra.

“Travelling and working alongside William, making music and visiting communities to find the next generation of First Nations storytellers and song-makers will be one of the most powerful experiences we will all have, and we are committed to ensure it lasts for generations to come.”

A collaboration of musicians, dancers, vocalists and artists will be invited to Mount Isa for the final gathering - warrma piipa (songbook) corroboree, which will include musical performance and song and dance from each of the five communities.

Barton will give a set of warrma piipa clap or message sticks, a traditional percussive instrument, to participating communities as an invitation to the final corroboree, back on his home country.

Crafted from gidgee (acacia cambagei) wood from Mount Isa, the message sticks feature artwork by Kuku-Yalanji artist Jeremy Donovan and carry within them a thumb drive so each community can record their contribution to the project.

“I am humbled by this moment, to share my journey and ideas with my community of Kalkatungu, and so many communities across Queensland - this is the power of the message stick we are using, it will record what we cannot," Barton said.

"This is a breathing and living time capsule of legacy for the future - and ceremony is the most important to connect all nations of the future.

"Warrma piipa is my story, your story, our journey.”

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