Where the waters meet (for a cappella SATB choir, 2011) was commissioned by the Sydney-based choir, Joubert Singers, conducted by Rachelle Elliott, to celebrate the sesquicentenary of Hunter’s Hill Council. The work is based upon a poem of the same name by the Sydney-based poet and chorister, Elizabeth McGeorge.
Comprising three sections, the poem paints a vivid picture of Mookaboola, a place “where two rivers meet the tide.” The poem commences with a depiction of Mookaboola as home to the Wallumedegal or snapper fish tribe. Casuarinas, or goomun, sing and sway in the breeze, while gently lapping water caresses the shore. Children catch fish with their mothers, while young men make spears and hunt with their brothers. In setting these words, I have used what I call an ‘island-style’ harmony, combined with a pedal note or drone.
The middle section of the poem describes the dramatic changes brought to bear on Mookaboola and the Wallumedegal, following the arrival of the white man. Forest trees make way for farmers’ crops, while slate roofs, church spires and lofty bridges appear. In setting this section of the poem, I frequently juxtapose contrasting choral registers to reflect the drama and emotion of the times.
In my setting of the poem’s final section, the choir sings of Mookaboola today, with its ferry boat of passengers from far and wide – “the French, the Irish and Italian, full of culture’s pride.” The final moments of my setting are intended to reflect the sound of bells, as alluded to in the poem’s final lines:
Can you hear… the bells that ring to bring the people to a home upon a hill,
A sanctuary of peace and beauty that draws us still.
I warmly thank Elizabeth McGeorge for allowing me to set her poem to music. I also extend my gratitude to Joubert Singers and conductor, Rachelle Elliott for commissioning the setting. Last, but not least, a big thank you to all the members of the Hunters Hill Sesquicentenary Choir for giving the work its premiere performance.