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William Barton: Artist-inresidence

06 Aug 2019

William Barton: Artist-inresidence Image

By Sean Car

Kalkadunga man and didgeridoo virtuoso William Barton has moved into the Melbourne Recital Centre (MRC) in August to become its 2019 artist-in-residence.

“An Australian giant in every sense of the word. A musician at the very top of his game, he’s broken more barriers and glass ceilings than you can count,” Limelight magazine’s Clive Paget wrote of Barton in 2016.

Upon meeting William at MRC last month, Southbank Local News could not agree with Paget’s take more. The same kind, thoughtful and compassionate emotions one receives through his music are the same as those received in person. William cares deeply about his music and his culture.

Those who tuned into the memorial service for former Prime Minister Bob Hawke recently would recall William’s mastery on the didgeridoo, when he collaborated with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in delivering a moving rendition of Men at Work’s Land Down Under.

A proud indigenous man, William is widely celebrated as one of Australia’s greatest living artists and he continues to tour the world sharing his talents and his passion for his country. That passion was on display for those lucky enough to witness his Contours of Songlines performance in the Elisabeth Murdoch Hall at MRC on July 18, which featured his mother Aunty Delmae Burton and violinist and pianist Paul Grabowsky.

However, this month, he moves into MRC to work alongside the likes of its director of programming Marshall Maguire to explore new ideas across a range of mediums all aimed at enhancing the MRC program.

“It’s a great honour to be an artist in residence here,” William said. The first conversation with Marshall Maguire was to just do whatever I want within reason but do the things that I would have wanted to do and explore across all of the different program ideas.”

“It will be great to be able to work with musicians of great esteem and ability because you get to hang out and workshop your ideas musically as well.”

Barton grew up around music and began playing didgeridoo from the age of seven in his hometown of Mt Isa, Queensland, where he was taught by his uncle Arthur Peterson. He also recounts memories of listening to his mother’s “operatic” singing with the birds at their home on a cattle station as a young boy.

“The spirit of my uncle or mum resonates through the next generation of storytellers and how we further develop that conversation through our artform,” William said.

“It was a privilege to be taught by my uncle. He taught me with traditional techniques and then that gave me the foundation to explore and ride that wave into different genres and adapt other techniques outside of the traditional techniques.”

It’s that same sense of cultural exchange and education that inspires and motivates William’s music. Describing himself as a “generational storyteller”, he said he felt that it was vital for everyone to be able to share the power of language and identity through the medium of music.

“The language is an important part of your identity and how you have to have it in our education system,” William said. “When I was here recently for International Jazz Day with Herbie Hancock and James Morrison, one of the hot topics was peoples’ style; where do they get their magic from?”

“It’s a linear. There’s a linkage of who they looked upon to get to where they are. Music is a basis of my contemporary expressions.”

Melbournerecital.com.au

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