This year’s sold out Barbara Blackman Festival Blessing concert at the Canberra International Music Festival – named for the writer and arts patron, whose significant support was instrumental to the festival’s growth in the mid-2000s – picked up a number of threads introduced by Artistic Director Roland Peelman in his opening concert.

Bach in the Central Desert, Canberra International Music Festival Véronique Serret and William Barton at the Canberra International Music Festival. Photo © Peter Hislop

Bach in the Central Deserttook place in the National Gallery of Australia’s Gandel Hall, and while the second half was given over to Festival newcomers, the Ntaria Choir, long-standing guest artist William Barton opened proceedings, with the world premiere of Heartland, a collaboration between the didgeridoo player and violinist Véronique Serret that saw breath-sounds, harmonics and music fragments unfold into a work of rhythmic urgency and soaring chant, Barton’s voice ringing out across the hall. Serret’s vocals, sung over her violin playing, provided a delicate contrast in tone to Barton’s, if not quite matching him for sheer projection.

The two musicians returned to the stage – alongside flautist Sally Walker, guitarist Callum Henshaw and percussionist Bree...

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