When Bushfire Requiem is performed with Camerata next week, virtuoso didgeridoo player and composer, William Barton invites the audience to “feel free to close your eyes as we take you on the journey through hardships returning to hope.”

A Kalkadunga man, William Barton grew up in Mt Isa and forged a career as a composer, producer, multi-instrumentalist and vocalist on the Australian classical music scene.

Bushfire Requiem, created with Barton’s life and artistic partner, violinist and vocalist, Véronique  Serret, was commissioned by Artology in 2021 as part of “Requiem”, an art, performance and talks based lament curated by Australian artist Janet Laurence. for the loss of ecologies on the anniversary of the 2020 bushfire crisis.

“How do we mourn and remember the inestimable loss – of animals, of flora, of ecological worlds – wrought by the black summer fires of 2019-2020? I believe we need to make our landscape sacred again; we need to re-enchant it through knowledge sharing between scientists, artists, and Indigenous peoples,” Janet Laurence said of Requiem.

Barton’s and Serret’s piece, now adapted for chamber orchestra, includes poetry written and voiced by Aunty Delmae Barton, William Barton’s mother. Mr Barton said it is about the devastation of bushfires for animals.

“We coexist with them, and a fire comes along, and many animals can’t travel from their home. It’s about the devastation in the deaths of those poor animals and of course, human lives and the tragedy that exists in such events.”

“It’s a moment for us to reflect as musicians as well and to play the soundscape of the land in that area and continue to play the sounds that echo there.”

The piece is about hope as well.

“We want people to go away feeling that we’re a part of a legacy, that we’re looking after each other and nature and the animals.”

William Barton is well known for his collaborations and says the process increases his understanding of and appreciation for other styles of music and other instrumentalists.

 “I often refer to music as language. So, when you collaborate, you become familiar with that language because you’re opening the pathways to accepting the way another instrument talks.

“I guess the process amplifies each other’s intentions for the piece, whatever that theme might be.”

Mr Barton credits Véronique Serret with much of the creative work on Requiem.

“I just added my little moments that sort of bring it together. We’re nursing or nurturing the concept of Western styles of music and traditional styles of music and how we bring those together.”

Mr Barton says the didgeridoo or yidaki and the violin come together in the piece in a type of call-response, both instruments able to create the sounds of landscape, earth and wind.

“We’re quite developed with our own instruments and we’re able to tell a story together for the audience.”

 Mr Barton says he has been collaborating with his mother since he was a young boy.

“Her instrument is her voice. As a young kid I remember playing with mum and I had to listen and build up my stamina to play along with her because her pieces are quite long.”

Bushfire requiem was originally composed for full orchestra, but Mr Barton says downsizing the piece for chamber orchestra is part of its growth.

“When you know the language of your instrument so well and are open to learning it, there’s always a foundation for things to grow from. And so, even though we’re downsizing an orchestral piece, it’s growing, because we’ve got a new arrangement of the work and we’re getting to share that experience with our other collaborators on stage, that’s another layer of collaboration …it’s really a great privilege for me and Veronique to share our story with the other musicians.”

Bushfire Requiem will be performed as part of the From My Homeland program by Camerata on Thursday 25 May at QPAC, Brisbane and on Friday 26 May at Empire Theatres, Toowoomba.

The program intertwines works from esteemed Australian composers Margaret Sutherland, Frederick Septimus Kelly, Brenda Gifford, and Cameron Patrick in performances for chamber orchestra to conjure vivid Australian soundscapes and the universal stories and experiences we tie to our homeland.


Margaret Sutherland – Concerto for Strings

Frederick Septimus Kelly – Elegy in Memoriam Rupert Brooke

Brenda Gifford – Bardju (Footprints)

Cameron Patrick – Lines of the Southern Cross

William Barton and Véronique Serret – Bushfire Requiem

And a Wild Card Mystery Guest!

Tickets at – https://camerata.net.au/performances/from-my-homeland/.


Camerata – Queensland’s Chamber Orchestra is a two-time Helpmann Award nominated ensemble performing entirely without a conductor.

As usual Camerata welcomes audience members to join them in the foyer after the show to meet the musicians and have a chat.

All images supplied