Australian War Memorial’s first musical artist in residence

26 May 2017

Musician Chris Latham has been appointed the Australian War Memorial’s first ever musical artist in residence, to last until 2021.

During his residency Mr Latham will research the Memorial’s music collection and identify, arrange, and record music with accompanying contextual material that reflects on Australia’s war, operational service, and home front experiences. He will focus on the First World War, Second World War, and the Vietnam War, in that order.

Memorial Director Dr Brendan Nelson said he was excited to have a composer of Mr Latham’s quality leading this ground-breaking project.

“One of the ways we tell stories at the Memorial is through our collection, which many may not know includes a large range of music written during or about dire periods in our history,” Dr Nelson said.

“To have Chris join the Memorial as our first ever musical Artist in Residence is an opportunity to bring these pieces of music to life in a way we’ve never done before.”

Throughout his tenure, Mr Latham will give sound to the Memorial’s growing collection of sheet music, which currently includes more than 900 titles, some written by servicemen and women and some by iconic composers and lyricists.

Mr Latham will also contribute to a full concert work, entitled The diggers’ requiem, with music from Australian composers accompanied by paintings and photographs from the Memorial’s collection. This facet of the project is being made possible through a partnership with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the Anzac Centenary Arts and Culture Fund.  

The resulting work will be performed in Amiens, France, on 23 April 2018, and on 6 October 2018 in Canberra, with performances to follow in Sydney and Adelaide.

Latham said he wants to give a human face to the tragedy of war to allow people to make sense of the enormity of the losses endured.

“Hearing 60,000 bells at the end of The diggers’ requiem, one for every Australian death in the First World War, will make the scale of the loss very real,” Mr Latham said.

“I am also really looking forward to the 100 songs project, in which we will record 100 notable songs sung and performed during the First World War, and people will be able to download these from the Memorial’s website.”

“Music played such an important role in helping people express their grief,” he said, “and sustaining them throughout these wars.”

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