William Barton


William Barton - Songwriting


William Barton is one of Australia’s leading didgeridoo players and composers.

Born in Mount Isa, he was taught the instrument by his uncle, an elder of the Waanyi, Lardil and Kalkadunga tribes of western Queensland.

William played his first classical concert with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra at the age of 17. Since then he has collaborated with many internationally renowned composers including Australia’s Peter Sculthorpe, Ross Edwards, Liza Lim, Sean O’Boyle, Philip Bračanin, and George Warren from the USA. An ARIA award winner for Best Classical Album Kalkadungu in 2012 has subsequently led to more commissions and world premieres of work for didgeridoo, classical ensemble and Symphony Orchestra.

Highlights of recent years include the 90th, 99th and 100 anniversary commemorations of the ANZAC landing at Gallipoli Turkey and the Battle of Passchendaele in Belgium, Australia Day celebrations in Seoul, the Venice Music Biennale and the World Expo in Shanghai. He has toured the USA with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and Italy with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, performed at the City of London Festival and given a private performance for Queen Sofia of Spain. William Barton was one of three Australian composers to write for the Australasian segment of the Opening Ceremony of the Beijing Olympics in 2008. In 2016 you can experience William’s new world premiere’s live in concert with the Southern Cross Soloist in Brisbane at QPAC and with the Australian String Quartet at the Port Fairy Spring Festival.

• Attending Mary MacKillop’s canonisation with his mother in Rome, where they saw a huge collection of Aboriginal art held by the Vatican • World Expo Auditorium di Milano, Milan, Lombardy, Italy Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi; conducted by Daniel Smith • World premiere of the Gallipoli Symphony in Istanbul Turkey and Brisbane Australia in 2015 • Being invited to play at the memorial service for the late Prime Minister Gough Whitlam at Sydney Town Hall • G20 Special presentation for World Leaders GOMA Brisbane November 2014 • Special guest with Iva Davies and Ice House at the Fire and Flood fundraiser Sound Relief concert at the Sydney Cricket Ground • 60th Anniversary of Bilateral relations - Egypt and Australia • 56th Venice Biennale - Australian Pavilion opening ceremony • G'day USA tour with Adelaide Symphony Orchestra - Carnegie Hall 2009 • Beijing 2008 Olympics - Opening ceremony, one of three Australian composers • Hamburg Symphony Orchestra with Australian conductor Simone Young • Australian World Orchestra with conductor Alexander Briger • European tours with the Australian Youth Orchestra and The Queensland ballet • St Petersburg, Russia, Mariinsky Orchestra, in their first performance of Australian repertoire performing Kalkadungu conducted by Daniel Smith • 1996 first cultural tour to the USA, Canada and Hawaii with the Doonoch Dancers

A composer, performer and recording artist, William’s compositions have been performed at the Sydney Opera House, the Pompidou Centre in Paris, and in Munich. Kalkadungu, written in collaboration with Matthew Hindson, has been performed in Royce Hall in Los Angeles and Carnegie Hall in New York City as part of G’day USA celebrations. Major dance works have included a 40-minute score, Timeless Dancers, for the Queensland Ballet, which has toured internationally to Europe, and Breathe for Leigh Warren and Dancers, which was premiered at the Womadelaide Festival in 2011.

In 2014 William was instrumental as a creative director and ambassador for the Yugambeh MOBO campaign. This campaign incorporated a corporate dinner, festival and community events for the Yugambeh language region of the Gold Coast, Logan and Scenic Rim. Furthermore, William was the composer commissioned to write a new work signifying the essence of Yugambeh Mobo.

William Barton has been awarded Honorary Doctorates of Music from Griffith University, Queensland and the University of Sydney.

"He's one of the great virtuosos. It's a sound I had heard before, but never with that sort of technique. The possibilities are extraordinary. This is a great man. He radiates. You watch him and think, this is impressive.” Sir Simon Rattle, Artistic Director Berliner Philharmoniker

Through his collaborations and projects, William aims to present the virtuosic potential of his instrument and the richness of his heritage and Australian culture to audiences throughout the world. He hopes they will see this music not just as an illustration of some exotic antiquity, but as a living, dynamic process, requiring considerable technique, stamina and study, equal to that of any conventional classically trained professional musician. He is a powerful advocate for the wider perception of his cultural traditions.