Arts / Latham gets a gong from the French

Latham among the flowers, photo Peter Hislop

FORMER “CityNews” Artist of the Year, Chris Latham, is to be awarded the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ambassador on Remembrance Day.

Latham, who is also the first musical artist in residence at the Australian War Memorial, is in good company, since past recipients of the honour have included Rudolf Nureyev, George Clooney, Kylie Minogue, Philip Glass, Robyn Archer and Leo Schofield, but has an advantage over some of them in that he is completely bilingual in English and French.

The award, always given for recognition of significant contributions to the arts, literature, or the propagation of these, and the enrichment of the French cultural inheritance, is in recognition of his project, “The Flowers of War”, which has been uncovering, performing and celebrating the music and art that men and women used to cope with the horror of war.

Marking the Centenary of World War I, 10 concerts of recently discovered music, diaries, poetry and art are in the process of being performed in Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne and France, including a tour of villages of the Somme.

Serendipitously, the next concert in the series take place this Wednesday, November 8, at the High Court of Australia, during which the audience will see a small preview of “The Diggers’ Requiem”, a commissioned concert work marking the AIF’s significant Western Front battles and a companion piece to “The Gallipoli Symphony”, premiered in 2015 in Istanbul and Brisbane.

The “Flowers of War” logo comprised of a red poppy, white daisy and blue cornflower symbolises the bonds between Australia and France and the enormous cultural losses to ourselves and all the countries involved.

This is an enormous work of cultural diplomacy, so it’s a pity Latham can’t go into politics — an essential feature of his dexterity in negotiating the cultures of Australia and France is that he is a dual citizen of both countries.

“1917 – The Night is Darkest before the Dawn”, part of Flowers of War, at High Court of Australia,  Wednesday, November 8. Bookings and all details to


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