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The language of music in Epic Sounds

Two extraordinary musicians. Their diverse instruments. And their labours of musical love.

2 min read

“...didgeridoo is a language. It’s a speaking language and like any language, it’s something that you’ve got to learn over many months, and many years. It’s got to be a part of you, and what you do.” William Barton

We’ve all heard the expression ‘music is a universal language’.

In Epic Sounds, which is headed for our Concert Hall this Saturday 26 June, it’s this language that will celebrate the work and life-long practice of two diverse and inspiring musicians: Digeridoo virtuoso William Barton and Queensland Symphony Orchestra (QSO) Principal Harpist Jill Atkinson alongside the full Orchestra.

Proud Kalkadunga man, ARIA-award winner, didgeridoo player and renowned composer of the highest acclaim, Barton’s music-making and storytelling career has taken him to the world’s leading concert halls, landmarks and cities. But it’s in Brisbane, and with QSO that he has chosen to unveil his new work, a piece that represents the internal lullaby of humanity.

William Barton playing his didgeridoo Photo by Keith Saunders

The world premiere performance of his new work Apii Thatini Mu Murtu (to sing and carry a coolamon on country together) with the full Orchestra, will see Barton use his famous didgeridoo, voice and guitar to, “welcome the audience into my musical world, and into the musical world of QSO”.  

“Music is at the forefront of storytelling and global connections, and the first music so many of us hear is the lullaby, regardless of our cultural background. This piece is about reconnection – to our language, to our cultures, to each other and the world we live in,” Barton says.

“I have composed Apii Thatini Mu Murtu as a legacy piece; one that can be played by professional orchestras right around the world, but also in local communities across Queensland and our country. It celebrates our unique Australia [sic] sound, it’s a travelling piece for story music.”

Barton’s connection to his instrument is something echoed by QSO Principal Harpist Jill Atkinson, whose harp is well and truly a part of her after playing this unique instrument for most of her life, 47 of those years with QSO. Jill will play her last concert with QSO this weekend before retiring.

In a nod to Jill, Epic Sounds will include Verdi’s Overture to La forza del destino, featuring an extraordinary moment for the harp – a fitting final performance for this life-long musician. For Jill, her final performance with QSO after 47 years will in no way be the end of her love affair with the harp as she continues sharing the language of her instrument by passing on her experience and skill to the next generation of harpists.

We feel certain that audiences will long benefit from Jill’s extraordinary knowledge of the harp and of playing as part of an orchestra as we see her students of today on tomorrow’s stages.


Acknowledgement of Traditional Custodians

We pay our respects to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ancestors of this land, their spirits and their legacy. The foundations laid by these ancestors – our First Nations Peoples – gives strength, inspiration and courage to current and future generations, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, towards creating a better Queensland.