Friday, June 23, 2023


 CSO Chamber Ensemble

William Barton, didgeridoo

National Museum Of Australia 22 June


Reviewed by Len Power


The vastness of the desert landscape and red, the richest of colours, inspired the five works presented in concert in the cavernous foyer of the National Museum Of Australia.

The program began with William Barton’s “Square Circles Beneath The Red Desert Sand” with William Barton on didgeridoo and the CSO Chamber Orchestra consisting of Kirsten Williams, violin, Doreen Cumming, violin, Tor Frøhmyhr, viola and Patrick Suthers, cello.

The work, about the spirit of Barton’s country, Kalkadunga (Mount Isa), commenced with Barton’s distinctive voice coming from the rear of the foyer while the ensemble improvised on stage. As Boyd joined them onstage with his didgeridoo, it developed into the rich sounds of life awakening. The western instruments with the digeridoo gave a sublime sense of two cultures blending together. It was a haunting work, colourful and very well performed.

William Barton with members of the CSO Chamber Ensemble

Red light suddenly bathed the vast foyer as we heard sound artist, Ros Bandt’s composition for electrified steel. “Red” is the first movement of her electroacoustic symphony “Stack”, a sonic work of an industrial chimney stack designed to extract fumes from a Victorian road tunnel.

It was an immersive experience with random sounds coming together in elaborate sub-mixes that included the use of the Indonesian brass mallet instrument, the Gender. This was all combined symphonically in the computer. The result was a memorably vital and alive work.

Peter Sculthorpe’s “String quartet no. 7 – Red landscape” was a quietly ferocious and austere work that created its own unique and descriptive musical atmosphere. It was played with great energy and precision by the chamber ensemble.

“Re-Echo”, a re-imagining of another work, “The Empty Quarter”, by Katy Abbott gave a fine sense of empty physical space combined with a lonely feeling of empty emotions. Patrick Suthers on cello played this reflective, melodic work with ensemble percussionist, Veronica Bailey, on vibraphone.  It was a performance of great sensitivity by the two artists.

A world premiere by Aaron Wyatt, “The Coming Dawn”, was the final work to be played. The full CSO chamber orchestra with William Boyd on didgeridoo produced a sense of the stillness of night in the early hours before sunrise which developed into a rich soundscape that evoked the land and its memories. This rich, highly coloured and imaginative work was given a memorable performance.


Photo by Martin Ollman


This review was first published by Canberra CityNews digital edition on 16 June 2023.

 Len Power's reviews are also broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 in the ‘Arts Cafe’ and ‘Arts About’ programs and published in his blog 'Just Power Writing' at