The Vietnam War is one of the most complex chapters in our nation’s history, deeply traumatic and divisive.
As we approach the 50th anniversary of Australia’s withdrawal, it’s timely that we re-examine our perceptions and commemorate the service and suffering of all who were touched by this war.
To mark the anniversary, the Flowers of War are producing the Vietnam Requiem in partnership with the Canberra Symphony Orchestra. (CSO). The Vietnam Requiem is the third in a series of seven major commemorative works given as a Gift to the Nation, supported by the Australian War Memorial (AWM) through Metal Manufactures Ltd, the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (DVA) and the Australia Council for the Arts.
This epic concert will honour the stories of those who lived through this experience: ANZAC and South Vietnamese veterans, medical personnel, entertainers, protesters, journalists and photojournalists, and those who fled to seek refuge in Australia.
Written by Ross Edwards AM, Elena Kats-Chernin AO, Andrew Schultz and Graeme Koehne AO, the Vietnam Requiem will explore a range of music genres, including pop, rock, jazz, world and orchestral. The performance will also include a 2000-year-old Đông Sơn bronze drum played by Phan Van Hu’ng, who is coming out of retirement specifically for this concert.
My wife Lynne and I attended the premiere of the DVA’s Gallipoli Symphony in Istanbul back in 2015. We also were fortunate to attend, in 2018, the Canberra premiere of the DVA’s and Australian War Memorial’s Diggers’ Requiem.
As one of the few veterans to have heard both of the first two works of the Gift, I personally want to state my wholehearted support for this project to create music which honours and reflects upon the service of Australians, in both peacekeeping and war.
And as a Vietnam veteran, I hope the Vietnam Requiem will assist all my fellow veterans, who may have been damaged in their service to this nation, to feel greater validation, and help them to reconcile their experiences and heal – and to feel a wholesome coming home.”
Vietnam Requiem features the CSO alongside leading musicians from the Navy, Army and Air Force Bands and the ANU Chamber Orchestra, with singers Little Pattie, Normie Rowe, John Schumann, Mark Williams, Nina Ferro, Susannah Lawergren and Rachel Mink, and instrumentalists Slava Grigoryan and Minh Le Hoang (Guitar), Alice Giles (Harp), William Barton (Didgeridoo), Horomona Horo taonga puoro (Maori instruments), Bill Risby (Piano / Keyboard) and many, many others.
We invite you to join us in fostering a deeper understanding of the Vietnam War and greater compassion for all touched by it. This is a gift by musicians to our fellow citizens, in the hope that it may help them to further heal.
Director, The Flowers of War
This article was originally published in the second edition of rest, the CSO concert magazine.