CHRIS Latham, director of “The Flowers of War” and the first musical artist in residence for the Australian War Memorial, can hardly suppress his excitement as he shows off his new publication, “The Flowers of the Great War”.
The Canberra launch on November 11 at the French Embassy before representatives from Australia, France, Belgium, Germany, Portugal, Austria, the UK and the EU will be “a great day for Australian music,” Latham says.
The 350-copy book, duplicated online, is packed with information about lost war-time musical works from the battlefields of World War I, recorded, documented and performed by Latham and his band of helpers since 2015 as a way of bringing this music to modern audiences.
Surveying the best composers and painters from a dozen nations who fought in the conflict, most of whom were killed, it begins with “The Gallipoli Symphony” and reaches its climax with the mighty “Diggers Requiem”, performed at Llewellyn Hall in 2018 to the accompaniment of 62,000 bells, one for each Australian who died in World War I.
Other concerts documented in the illustrated publication, which will go to libraries across the country, include “The Lost Jewels”, “Monet: The Flowers Of War”, “The Healers”, “1917 – The Night Is Darkest Before The Dawn”, “Sacrifice”, “Three Treasures”, “Life, Death & Transcendence” and “Re-sounding Gallipoli”.
More than 50 newly-recorded, popular World War I songs are included in the package, such as “Keep the Home Fires Burning”, the heartbreaking “Break the News to Mother” and “The Song of Australia” (once put forward as an alternative National Anthem to “Advance Australia Fair”).
Central to the book and the launch will be the work of Australian composer Frederick Septimus Kelly, the pianist and Olympic rower who died on the Western Front. Kelly’s complete recordings, including works never before heard, will be accessible via data card at the back of the book – “a free gift to the nation and the world,” Latham says.
From November 11 the public will be able to download most of the collection (except for Kelly works still under copyright) free from theflowersofwar.org