William Barton (musician)

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William Barton
Born (1981-06-04) 4 June 1981 (age 38)
Mount Isa, Queensland, Australia
OccupationMusician, didgeridoo player

William Barton is an Australian Aboriginal didgeridoo player. He was born in Mount Isa, Queensland on 4 June 1981[1] and learned to play from his uncle, an elder of the Wannyi, Lardil and Kalkadunga tribes of Western Queensland. He is widely recognised as one of Australia's finest traditional didgeridoo players and a leading didgeridoo player in the classical world.[2][3]

"I'm doing what I love," Barton says. "I want to take the oldest culture in the world and blend it with Europe's rich musical legacy."[4]

Barton has been featured on the ABC television program, Australian Story.[5]

Early life and work[edit]

Taught to play the digeridoo from an early age by aboriginal elders, by the age of 12 Barton was working in Sydney, playing for Aboriginal dance troupes. At the age of 15 he toured America, after which he decided he wanted to become a soloist rather than a backing musician and started to study different kinds of music. In 1998, he made his classical debut with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra, and became Australia's first didgeridoo artist-in-residence with a symphony orchestra.[6]


Barton has appeared at music festivals around the world and has also recorded a number of orchestral works. He featured in Peter Sculthorpe's Requiem, a major work for orchestra, chorus and didgeridoo, which premiered the Adelaide Festival of Arts in 2004 with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and Adelaide Voices conducted by Richard Mills. This was reputedly the first time a didgeridoo has featured in a full symphonic work.[7] The work has since been performed in the UK at The Lichfield Festival with The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Birmingham's choir Ex Cathedra, conducted by Jeffrey Skidmore.

In May 2004, ABC Classics released Songs of Sea and Sky, an album of works by Peter Sculthorpe revised for didgeridoo and orchestra. Performed by Barton and the Queensland Orchestra conducted by Michael Christie.

In 2005, Barton performed at the 90th anniversary Gallipoli at ANZAC Cove, Turkey, and in debut concerts with the London Philharmonic Orchestra at Royal Festival Hall in London.[4] In 2005/2006, Barton collaborated with orchestras, choral directors and composers in Australia, America and Europe, developing new commissions for the didgeridoo.[2]

On 5 November 2014, Barton performed at the memorial service for former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam in the Sydney Town Hall.[8]

In 2015, Barton performed at the 100th anniversary opening Gallipoli at ANZAC Cove, Turkey for dawn service.[9]

In 2019, Barton played with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra an orchestral rendition of Down Under at the memorial service for former Prime Minister Bob Hawke at the Sydney Opera House.[10]


Barton was jointly selected with pianist Tamara Anna Cislowska for the 2004 Freedman Fellowship for Classical Music by the Music Council of Australia.[11]

In 2004, he was awarded the Brisbane Lord Mayor's Young and Emerging Artists' Fellowship,[12] and the following year he was a metropolitan finalist for the Suncorp Young Queenslander of the Year Award.[13]

He was nominated in the ARIA Music Awards of 2004 for Best Classical Album with ABC Classics recording Songs of Sea and Sky.

On 3 October 2012, Barton won the ARIA Music Awards of 2012 for Best Classical Album[14] at the Fine Arts and Artisan awards presented at the Art Gallery of NSW. The ABC Classics release features the title track "Kalkadungu", a collaborative work by Barton and Matthew Hindson, along with solo works by Barton and Peter Sculthorpe's Earth Cry and Requiem.



  1. ^ Queensland Choir Media Release Accessed 5 September 2007 Archived 30 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ a b Artist Profile, Camden Music Festival 2007 website. Archived 29 August 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ "Creature Features – Celebrity Pets – William Barton". ABC. Retrieved 27 May 2010.
  4. ^ a b Usher, Robin (9 May 2005). "Barton breathes deep for Earth". The Age. Australia. Retrieved 27 May 2010.
  5. ^ "William the Conqueror". Australian Story. ABC Television. 10 May 2007. Retrieved 27 May 2010.
  6. ^ Bevan, Scott (6 October 2003). "Ancient instrument's new tunes". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 27 May 2010.
  7. ^ Haxton, Nance (5 March 2004). "Didgeridoo symphony premieres". The World Today. ABC Radio. Retrieved 27 May 2010.
  8. ^ David Marr (5 November 2014). "Gough Whitlam's memorial left lingering sadness, despite the cheers and soaring oratory". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 November 2014.
  9. ^ Cumming, Stuart (24 April 2015). "Didgeridoo player to wow crowds at Gallipoli dawn service". Central North Burnett Times. Retrieved 24 April 2015.
  10. ^ Hawke Memorial: William Barton and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra play Down Under | ABC News, retrieved 9 January 2020
  11. ^ "2004 Freedman Classical Fellows – William Barton & Tamara Anna Cislowska". Music Council of Australia. 2004. Retrieved 27 May 2010.
  12. ^ "Young master of Didgeridoo wins prestigious award", William Barton website Archived 19 August 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ "Young Queenslander of the Year Award – Finalist 2005", William Barton website. Archived 29 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ "ARIA Awards 2012".
  15. ^ Album details, Naxos website

External links[edit]