100 years on - what's happening in 2016

In 2016 The Flowers of War will hold a series of concerts and conversations throughout the year in Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne and France. Please check our events page to find out more.

Media Release

Sacrifice – The Lost Songbirds of the Somme

A Flowers of War Event

Beautiful and rarely played songs, an elegy, musical compositions and pipe tunes all connected with the Battle of the Somme, will be performed in a concert called Sacrifice- The Lost Songbirds of the Somme to commemorate the 100th anniversary of that battle. This deeply moving event will be a special way of honouring those on both sides who lost their lives and those who composed music there.

The event will celebrate twelve musicians from six nations (Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Britain, Germany and France) who were lost, injured or deeply affected by their service at the Somme.

The Flowers of War project is directed by ANZAC Centenary Fellow Christopher Latham, who was responsible for the best-selling Gallipolli Symphony broadcast last year in Istanbul, and on ABC TV. “This event is designed to be hauntingly beautiful, and to give people a chance to remember the battle in which so many Australians died. Humanity lost so many brilliant composers and musicians in WWI, those songbirds we never knew. Listening to their music, in many cases the last works these young men ever created, in the midst of the most dreadful conditions, gives a human scale to this unimaginable tragedy.”

“The Battle of the Somme is still not as well-known as Gallipoli in Australia, and yet the British and Commonwealth casualties from this fighting totalled an appalling 420,000, and the French lost around 204,000. Combined with the German losses, there were more than a million casualties on the Somme.”

The concert presents music composed in the trenches, in a hospital, and pieces written just before the composers joined up. The program will also be performed in France in July in the churches of the villages that were devastated by the artillery bombardments of both sides, including Pozieres and Fromelles. It will end with a tribute to the more than 300 pipers killed in action while playing, three of whom were awarded Victoria Crosses for their heroism.

Music by FS Kelly, Willie Braithwaite Manson, Georges Wilkinson, George Butterworth, Ivor Gurney, Francis Purcell Warren, William Laurie, Walter Braunfels, Botho Sigwart, Reynaldo Hahn and Jacques Ibert.

The free discussion with Chris Latham and historian Joan Beaumont at 6.30pm will focus specifically on this conflict of flesh versus steel and how that trauma affected the future history of the nations involved. It will ask:

How did the Somme usher in the world of modern warfare? What was its cultural cost? What was the cost of the de-sensitisation that survival required?


Tuesday June 21

High Court of Australia, Parkes Place Parkes



Friday June 24, 2016

St James Church, King St



Wednesday June 22nd

Scot's Church, 156 Collins Street

Performed by: Andrew Goodwin tenor, Anton Wurzer accordion, Jason Craig bagpipes and the Sculthorpe String Quartet.

 Contextual Conversation:  6.30-7.30pm (free but booking is essential)    Concert: 8 – 9.30pm Tickets: $45 and $35 concessions