Flowers of War : The Vietnam Requiem – 50 Years On

2020 … a year none of us will ever forget is (thankfully) behind us and 2021 with all it’s ups and downs is proving almost as challenging for many. We have not been able to (yet) re-engage with the world as we knew it and many of us (particularly in Victoria) are struggling with the uncertainty of the COVID menace … so we wait and do what we can but it is at a high cost to many. I hope that you are managing to keep yourself sane and active during the uncertainty.

But although it seems like we have been cut off from the rest of humanity in many ways during this time, it has been a time of great steps forward for others.

In the quiet of cancelled concerts and events Chris Latham has been working on his next major production for his magnificent Flowers of War Series : The Vietnam Requiem. This is a piece that is close to my heart … Vietnam was my era and I have forever been torn about the way we (as a Nation) treated our Vietnam Veterans on their return to Australia. It was an unpopular war, no doubt, but we could and should have done better than we did.

I have been lucky enough to experience a couple of Chris’ masterpieces. The Flowers of the Great War in France at the tiniest of churches in Posieres in 2016, in Canberra in 2018 for the Digger’s Requiem, and also in Melbourne for a performance at the Melbourne Recital Centre. Stunning in so many ways, beautiful, powerful and incredibly (cannot stress this enough) emotional.

The Flowers of War in Amiens Cathedral 2016
The Flowers of War performed at Amiens Cathedral in France (2016)

Chris’ latest work is the third in the Flowers of War series of national commemorative musical works – the Vietnam Requiem – and it is reaching its final stages of creative development.

From Chris’ information on the project :

This performance will create a deeper understanding of the Vietnam war by showing all perspectives through the power of music and imagery. It promises to be epic in many ways.

This concert was created by some of Australia’s leading composers and will be performed by Little Pattie, Normie Rowe, John Schumann, the RMC Duntroon Band, Canberra Symphony Orchestra and choirs. It will take audiences on a musical journey, with 12 popular songs from the era and orchestral movements that will respond to stories or events that shaped our perceptions or experiences.

In honouring service and acknowledging pain, dislocation and the terrible cost of war, the Vietnam Requiem will be performed as a gift to our Vietnam veterans that is long overdue and deserved.

‘Telling the story of this war primarily through the Australian experience is complex,’ said Chris Latham, the Director of the Flowers of War and Artist in Residence at the Australian War Memorial. ‘This war was the most divisive in our history, and one where, to this day, there are many who have remained silent about their experiences.’

‘This concert will respond to all those affected, including Australian, New Zealand and Vietnamese veterans; the medical staff who helped heal the wounded; the journalists, cameramen and photojournalists who reported back to the nation; the entertainers who toured to give some joy to the troops; the protesters and the boat people who fled to freedom and settled in our nation.’

‘We will be fair, accurate and even-handed in all our musical depictions, and wish for this work to do good.’

It promises to be a magnificent and epic musical journey and I encourage those who are able to go to see the premiere in Canberra (5-6 June 2021).

The most unfortunate thing about this is that at this point, there is no funding available to tour the concert to any of the States which I feel is a travesty. The impact of COVID on funding for the arts has been diabolical. This is an important and phenomenal work of such incredible generosity and healing and I am hoping that there is a way to secure funding for a wider tour of the project. There are many, many veterans and families that need to see this performance. Watch this space.

Chris and his team are inviting all those affected by this war to join them in June :

 Saturday 5 and Sunday 6 June 2021
 1–4pm
 Llewellyn Hall, ANU, Canberra
 For further info visit
 Book via Ticketek from 15 March
 Special pre-sale release to veterans, widows, and families from 22 February

Both images taken from the Flowers of War Website with thanks to the unknown photographers.


About 5000 Poppies

The 5000 Poppies Project is a community tribute of respect and remembrance for our servicemen and women, their families and their communities. Created in 2013 by sisters in law Lynn Berry and Margaret Knight in honour of their fathers service in WWII, the project has been closely aligned with the Centenary of Anzac 2014 to 2018, and has consisted of a number of small and large scale installations made from handcrafted poppies from many thousands of contributors from all over the world.
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