DR Chris Latham has taken on an ambitious project, presenting wartime music in 25 concerts over four years. This first concert in the series Latham has called “Flowers of War” showed conclusively how “Flowers” will ‘bear witness’, as the program notes say, to ‘how music … sustained the human spirit in the battlefield’.
Camaraderie, bravado, and the anticipation of adventure shone in pieces like “Australia Will Be There”, “Invercargill” and “Where are the Boys of the Old Brigade”.
New Zealand-born baritone, John-Henry Te Hira, sang “Po Artarau” (“Now is the Hour”) and “Jesu Lover of my Soul”, in Maori. His pleasant but light, gentle voice unfortunately struggled to fill the cavernous High Court foyer.
Another baritone, Alexander Knight, featured a lot during the concert singing happy, popular songs and poignant ones. His very fine and powerful voice had no trouble filling the space and creating the emotions the songs demanded.
These pieces juxtaposed sad Turkish ironies: the mournful “Motherland March”, the hopelessness of Gallipoli in the folk song “Çanakkale Içinde”, and the funeral song “SaygiMarsi”. Ibrahim Karaisli sang them all superbly.
The stars of the concert, a cornet and a bugle, were played at Gallipoli, both carrying stories of their own and one of them – the bugle – being played for the first time in nearly a century in a moving rendition of “The Last Post” and “Reverie” at the end of the concert. A long silence preceded a tentative and then thunderous applause from the packed house.
[Photo: Chris Latham conducting the Canberra Camerata Brass with Alex Knight and Paul Goodchild, by Peter Hislop]