The Road Ahead Sampler : April May 2016
QUEENSLAND'S LARGEST CLUB 17 APR/MAY 2016 THE ROAD AHEAD LIFESTYLE PEOPLE Calling the shots at Red Bull racing. More silverware for the sideboard In between there are all sorts of commitments, from concerts to community workshops promoting literacy among indigenous children for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, and developing a didgeridoo orchestra for the Yugambeh Nation of south-east Queensland. It's representative of a diverse and incredibly busy schedule that often means he's on the road for up to nine months straight. But he loves it, travelling mostly with his mother -- renowned indigenous opera singer and poet, Aunty Delmae Barton -- and taking every opportunity to develop and sustain music for the didgeridoo in a classical environment, and to leaving a legacy to the next generation of indigenous storytellers. William was taught to play the didgeridoo from an early age by Aboriginal elders of the Kalkadunga people, who lived around Mt Isa for millennia before it became a mining town. In particular, there was his uncle Arthur Petersen, and his father Alfred, who played rhythm and blues on the guitar. "We were the first Aboriginal family to go to the Mount Isa Folk Club, and that gave me a broader musical palette as well," William said. "I was listening to Vivaldi and Bach on ABC Classic FM, but I was also listening to ACDC tapes and, at home, there was country and western music on the radio, just like in most regional towns." He was working periodically in Sydney from the age of 12, playing for Aboriginal dance troupes and also backing his mother's performances. "I had my sixteenth birthday in Edmonton, Alberta -- and it was freezing -- while I was touring Canada and the US with the Doonoch Dancers," William said. "All these different musical styles, including my own culture of didgeridoo and language, gave me my inspiration. I realised while I was in Canada that classical music was the connection for me to communicate with the broader world -- and that I wanted to become a soloist rather than a backing musician." At 17, he made his classical debut with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra and in 2002, at age 21, became Australia's first didgeridoo artist-in-residence with the newly amalgamated Queensland Symphony and Queensland Philharmonic Orchestra. Since then, and with the aid of mentors such as composer Peter Sculthorpe and writer, broadcaster and producer Martin Buzzacot, he's built an amazing career. The highlights have been many, with William's favourites including performing his large scale orchestral work, Kalka- dungu, at Carnegie Hall in New York with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra as part of the G'Day USA tour. But there are others: • Attending Mary MacKillop's canonisation with his mother in Rome, where they saw a huge collection of Aboriginal art held by the Vatican • Performing for President Obama and the G20 heads of state in Brisbane in 2014 • Playing with the Berlin and London Philharmonic Orchestras • Performing at the 90th, 95th and 100th anniversaries of Gallipoli at ANZAC Cove • Being invited to play at the memorial service for the late Prime Minister Gough Whitlam at Sydney Town Hall • Hamburg Symphony Orchestra with Australian conductor Simone Young • Australian World Orchestra with conductor Alexander Briger • Extensive touring in Europe with the Australian Youth Orchestra and the Queensland Ballet • Travelling to St Petersburg, Russia, last year to play with the Mariinsky Orchestra, in their first performance of Australian repertoire with conductor Daniel Smith. And then, of course, winning the ARIA for best classical album Kalkadungu in 2012, the title track of which he co- wrote with Matthew Hindson, also was something of a highlight. Over the years, and with the help of a Brisbane Lord Mayor's Fellowship and a Freedman Foundation Fellowship for Classical Music, William's learnt western musical notation. "I always had the music in my head," William said. "But I wanted to learn how to write it down so that I could compose for string quartets and orchestras." This year, apart from his new album due for release in June, William has his usual busy schedule. In June, he'll feature with the Southern Cross Soloists at QPAC in Visions of Earth, which explores nature's beauty and wilderness, followed by a tour to Europe. For William, it's all about building bridges between indigenous and western worlds, using classical music as the communication channel. "My story is to connect people through the art form and universal language of music," William said. "I can talk to some of the most powerful people in the world through my didgeridoo or my guitar. The sound in my music is most definitely a reflection of where I come from. "When I am overseas I tell people that the best thing I can do is play them my music, and tell them a little bit about Australia. But to experience it for themselves -- the rugged beauty of our great landscape -- they have to come to Australia and see it for themselves. "My landscape, my mother country, will always resonate within me and will never change. "What drives me is to share the knowledge that was handed down to me with the next generation, who will be the storytellers of the future. And to keep getting better at what I do, every day." n WHAT DRIVES MEISTO KEEP GETTING BETTER... EVERY DAY William Barton during a tour to Paris. Image: Nathalie Latham.
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