But he also wants to acknowledge that just as the Concert Hall can be seen as a sacred space for western society, “there's a sacred space outside the Opera House too” – Tubowgule, the land on which the Opera House stands, which was once a place of gathering and celebration for the Gadigal people of the Eora nation.
For the choristers, William has had some 60 pairs of clapsticks made, using wood salvaged from the Concert Hall’s old and new stages. These simple percussive instruments are an intrinsic part of William’s cultural heritage, and in crafting them from the hall’s old floorboards, they become avatars of the Sydney Opera House’s own heritage and a tribute to the thousands of performers that have come before and the thousands more to come.
“The floorboards are very significant and part of actual history – to have that wood and have kids play it, that's a form of spiritual journey,” he says.
Inclusivity and environmental sustainability are fundamental to this journey and reflect the Sydney Opera House’s commitment to the UN’s Global Goals, which are dedicated to creating a better world for future generations.
To source the wood for the clapsticks, William visited the Sydney Opera House’s vast storage facility where construction material is warehoused for repurposing or recycling – in the 21-22 financial year, 90% of materials for its renewal projects were recycled.
It was here that he found the warm timber of the brushbox tree, a feature of the Concert Hall for the past 50 years, that would find new life in the hands of the choristers performing his new work.
“They're being made by professional luthiers, and I’ve got Aboriginal brothers making them as well,” he says. “The whole purpose was to have white and black – to be very blunt – of a certain lineage, creating these instruments as part of the old for the new. It’s very ceremonious.
“I wanted them to be all different and I wanted them to be mixed up in terms of who has clapsticks made from the floorboards from the choir stalls to the main stage to who made it – whether it was the Aboriginal guy or the luthier.”