Music performance major Sam Lingen ’25 (front) and music composition major, Amal Shokr '24, gain technical skills in music recording under the guidance of Sean O'Boyle, artist-in-residence, who has composed the chamber ensemble piece The Wise Woman, which he is expanding for a ballet to be performed in July 2024.

With the March premiere of The Wise Woman, a bit of Moravian University graced the stage “down under,” at the Queensland Performing Arts center in Brisbane, Australia. Composed by Sean O’Boyle, artist-in-residence at Moravian University, it will be performed by the Australian Chamber Ensemble Southern Cross Soloists (SXS), along with didgeridoo soloist Chris Williams, a proud Wakka Wakka man. (The Wakka Wakka people are one of the hundreds of Aboriginal communities in Australia, living in the area now called Queensland.)

O’Boyle introduces the didgeridoo, an Aboriginal Australian wind instrument, to Lingen and Shokr. The didgeridoo figures prominently in O’Boyle’s composition The Wise Woman.

O’Boyle has been affiliated with the SXS for some 30 years, and The Wise Woman continues to showcase his keen interest in indigenous Australians. He composed the piece in honor of Maureen Williams (grandmother of didgeridoo soloist Chris). Although she had not much more than an elementary school education and lived in poverty as a child, she valued education highly, and Maureen and her husband raised her children to lead successful lives.

The Wise Woman will be expanded and performed as a new contemporary ballet for Queensland Ballet in July. As the recording arts partner for this project, Moravian’s students will use our recording studio and engineering equipment to produce the rehearsal track that will assist the ballet’s choreographer, Katina Olsen. Particularly for those music students pursuing an audio/technical track in their studies, the hands-on nature of this project will be invaluable and includes

  • observing the creation of a new ballet score by O’Boyle;
  • learning the expertise needed and participating in the technical aspects of creating a high-quality rehearsal recording, such as how to add individual tracks from musicians and balance the levels in the final recording;
  • attending Zoom meetings with the Australian creators and observing rehearsals; and
  • becoming immersed in the collaboration required as a final work takes shape.

Students will also experience a few other “real world” aspects of working in music, including how to take an existing work and adapt it for another form, as well as how to take music and add new ideas to it—like making a 2-bar phrase into a 16-bar phrase—to make it longer while maintaining the original boundaries of the work. They’ll also learn about the unpredictable nature of the didgeridoo!

O’Boyle calls music “an international language on its own,” with each part of the world contributing its own characteristic voice: “Western music tells you how fast, how loud; Japanese music tells you what you should be feeling. Writing for the didgeridoo is about imagery as well. . . . You have to think a little differently about how that happens and the possibilities.” —Renée A. James ’80

Composer-in-residence Larry Lipkis (right) listens as O’Boyle talks about the didgeridoo, which will be featured in a new composition by Lipkis.

Moravian’s connection to the Southern Cross Soloists has also grown to include our composer-in-residence, Larry Lipkis who has been commissioned to compose a piece for a chamber ensemble. About this opportunity and his upcoming work, Lipkis noted, “I was delighted to receive the commission from Sean because he has been raving about the SXS players for some time, and I’ve watched several YouTube clips of the group in performance, and they are truly outstanding. Incorporating the didgeridoo—an ancient aboriginal wind instrument—into a classical chamber music ensemble will be an unusual and exciting challenge, which I look forward to engaging in this summer.”

Lipkis will compose his piece for a chamber ensemble, with instruments including oboe, French horn, violin, cello, piano, and didgeridoo. It will be performed at Moravian in the spring of 2025 as well as on the Southern Cross Soloists tour with dates and locations to come. —Renée A. James ’80