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14 August 2015

2015 Art Music Awards finalists - comments by judging panels

2015 Art Music Awards finalists - comments by judging panels

Each year, the judging process for the Art Music Awards relies on countless hours of work by dedicated volunteers. This year, the AMC and APRA AMCOS would like to thank the following people for their time in judging the nominations: Diana Blom, Vanessa Chalker, Harriet Cunningham, Carl Crossin, David Forrest, Tony Gould, Maria Grenfell, Elliott Gyger, Michael Hooper, Cat Hope, Linda Kouvaras, James Ledger, Stephen Leek, Alex Masso, Tim Matthies, Ros McMillan, Kate Neal, James Nightingale, Victoria Owens, Jo Parkes, Sarah Penicka-Smith, Ben Northey, John Shand, Nick Shimmin, Gian Slater, Jula Szuster, Liz Terracini, Julie Warn, Nigel Westlake, Peta Williams, Toby Wren, Jonathan Zwartz. A special thank you goes to Siobhan Lenihan for chairing the Awards panels.

The following summaries and notes about this year's Art Music Award finalists have been provided by the panels.

Vocal/Choral work of the Year

Summary: The finalists emerged from a strong field with myriad styles and approaches, ranging from works offering an accessible and satisfying experience for community-based performers to those requiring the highest calibre of professional forces.

Stephen Adams: Afterwards - 'The more one listens, the more intriguing this strong work becomes. With its integration of percussion and voices, powerful humanitarian message, theatrical staging and unusual textures, Afterwards deserves a lasting place in the choral repertoire.'

Iain Grandage: The Riders (Winner) - 'This is a significant contribution to Australian music: utterly moving and beautifully written for the voice. The orchestration is clean and clear and the use of electronic sounds is notable for its absence of cliché. The subject matter, with its Antipodean and European referentialities, creates an engaging and new construct on the complexity of Australian identity in the 21st century.'

Joseph Twist: How shall we sing in a strange land? - This work reflects the cultural diversity, contradictions and mixed history of post-colonial Australia through the juxtaposition of sacred and secular texts. It stands out for its excellent writing for voice and the way it reveals itself in performance, particularly through its use of aleatory elements.'

Dan Walker: Mass of Deliverance - ' With fluid and long cantabile choral lines and atmospheric flugelhorn solos, this Mass is an attractive and useful addition to the repertoire for community choir. It is a work that may also lend itself to a range of versions with alternate accompaniments.'

Instrumental Work of the Year

Summary: The ideas, forms, instrumental combinations and sound worlds of the entries ranged widely, demonstrating wonderful inventiveness and skill on the part of composers represented and the tremendous variety of ensembles committed to new Australian music.

Damian Barbeler: Shadow Box (concert version) - 'Outstanding craft and structure and attractive instrumental sonorities characterise this well-shaped, short piece, in this composer's distinctive voice.'

Paul Grabowsky: The Nightingale and the Rose - 'Rich, eerie harmonies contribute to this work's contemporary sound, and the virtuosic solo recorder part is balanced exceptionally well with the string quartet.'

Damien Ricketson The Secret Noise (Winner) - 'A fascinating work of imagination and superlative craft. The composer has cleverly integrated the instrumental and dance elements so both contribute to the theatricality of the whole, and the sonic palette is startlingly strange and beautiful.'

Carl Vine: Piano Trio: 'The Village' - 'This beautifully crafted, unusually structured work with many lovely moments makes a difficult medium persuasive and rewards repeated listening.'

Orchestral Work of the Year

Summary: The astonishing level of talent in Australian writing for orchestra was apparent in the diverse nominations which ranged in form from occasional works to large, multi-artform collaborations. The panel noted an interesting evolution of the concerto form, where both composer and soloist contribute to the improvisation which featured in compositional collaborations.

Brett Dean: Dramatis Personae: music for trumpet and orchestra (Winner)- 'This imaginative masterpiece grips the listener's attention throughout. The far-reaching expressive range, stretching the virtuoso soloist, and magnificent orchestration demonstrating the composer's continually evolving technique and command of form, make this an exciting and moving experience.'

Elena Kats-Chernin/Jon Rose: Elastic Band for solo improvised violin and orchestra - 'Improvisation by the orchestra in response to the soloist's improvised line with its extended techniques, and live-mix conductor are bold features of this terrific piece. The collaborators have created an absorbing and fiercely innovative work.'

Lachlan Skipworth: Concerto for clarinet and orchestra - 'This fresh concerto with its clever orchestration creates a sound world for the soloist which explores the darker side of the clarinet. The cadenza - a collaboration between composer and soloist of fascinating textures - is particularly impressive.'

Paul Stanhope and the Bunuba People, Steve Hawke librettist: Jandamarra - Sing for the Country
'This successful collaboration with the Banuba people of the Kimberley region in Western Australia has resulted in a piece that handles brilliantly its large forces of orchestra, choirs, dancers and actors, and creates a moving and powerful sense of place.'

Jazz Work of the Year

Summary: The finalists represent the diversity of works nominated in the category from traditional jazz ensembles to innovative collaborations with players new to the idiom. The many distinctive voices, from the emerging to the established, displayed their skill in writing for a range of styles, forms and instrumentations.

Simon Barker, Il Dong Bae, Carl Dewhurst, Riley Lee, Matt McMahon and Phil Slater: Mujing - ' An ethereal, current, beautiful composition: Australian jazz with a connection to community.'

Mace Francis: Music for Average Photography (Winner) - 'This exciting work compels the listener with its strong, excellent writing for big band. It is clever, creative and consistently interesting.'

Paul Grabowsky: Love Like a Curse
'A different style from this brilliant musician: interesting language, fine writing for strings. A short, lovely piece.'

Daniel Susnjar: Pius Bartosik - ' Some fantastic concepts in this bold piece, in which the composer has thought deeply about the solo writing and left space for improvisation.'

Performance of the Year

Summary: The panel was impressed by the rich and varied array of works, demonstrating that commissioning and performing Australian music is alive in all corners of the repertoire. The panel was encouraged by the entries from orchestras and ensembles engaged in extending the boundaries of their traditional performance styles.

Michael Kieran Harvey for Luz meridional, Twenty-four Études for Pianoforte, no. 411 by Andrián Pertout - ' Illustrating this performer's commitment to long, sustained works, this compelling, virtuosic performance of an ambitious score is fierce, intense and beautiful.'

Ashley William Smith, West Australian Symphony Orchestra and conductor Baldur Bronniman for Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra (Winner) by Lachlan Skipworth - ' The technical mastery displayed is matched by the musicality of the performance. The performer's command of his instrument enabled him to realise the composer's intentions - written-out and improvised - accurately and with flair.'

Synergy Percussion for Beauty Will Be Amnesiac Or Will Not Be At All by Anthony Pateras - A thrilling performance of a demanding work requiring specially constructed instruments and creative use of the performance space celebrates 40 years of outstanding work.

West Australian Symphony Orchestra for Concerto for Orchestra by Carl Vine - This exceptional and thoroughly prepared performance saw the orchestra rise to the challenge of this exciting work, with every section and individual contributing their utmost.

Award for Excellence by an Individual

Summary: The finalists come from a strong field. The panel was encouraged by the quality of the younger artists in the category and delighted by the range of performing, recording and touring initiatives in regional as well as metropolitan communities.

Jeanell Carrigan for resurrecting the piano music of Meta Overman - 'The revelation of Meta Overman's music is a real performer's project, with high-quality scores, performances, recordings, documentation and academically benchmarked research.'

Julian Day for excellence in researching, broadcasting and presenting the work of Australian musicians to a broad national and international public on ABC Classic FM, BBC and other broadcast and print media outlets - 'Julian's single-minded focus on contemporary music benefits his audiences as he digs deeply into the repertoire and conducts great interviews. A fabulous broadcaster.'

Ross Edwards for his contribution to Australian chamber music (Winner) - 'Ross has composed chamber music for nearly five decades. His formidable catalogue, beginning with a Bagatelle (for oboe and piano, 1968) and running through some 60 works to last year's String Quartet No.3 (2014), is a treasury of the familiar and the waiting to be rediscovered.'

Peter Knight for leadership, composition, performance, curation - 'While continuing his role as Artistic Director of the Australian Art Orchestra, which he took on in 2013, in 2014 Peter also maintained his own busy performing and composing career in Australia and overseas.'

Award for Excellence by an Organisation

Summary: The panel was pleased to note the increasingly high standard of nominations, the widespread and excellent level of choral activity, the role of regional organisations and professional orchestras in the presentation of new music, and the many fine individual ensembles producing, touring and promoting Australian music here and overseas.

Gondwana Choirs for the 2014 artistic program and significant contribution to Australian music since 1989 (Winner) - 'The sustained contribution of this important national organisation cannot be overstated. With Lyn Williams as Artistic Director and driving force since founding Sydney Children's Choir in 1989, the 2014 program was exceptional, in particular the stunning VOICES installation, premiered at Melbourne's White Nights and experienced by over 14,000 people.'

Moorambilla Voices for the 2014 program and contribution to musical life in remote New South Wales - 'The mission of this outstanding organisation enables young people in regional and remote communities to participate in high level music-making. The connections fostered between the participants and local, emerging and leading visiting artists and the region's Indigenous stories enrich these young people's lives.'

Synergy Percussion for 40 years of Synergy Percussion in 2014 - 'The long history, quality performing, commissioning and touring record, outstanding succession planning and international mission of this wonderful ensemble make it the model and set the standard for percussion and other groups.'

Sydney Chamber Choir for 40 years of outstanding contribution to Australian choral music - 'The sustained, excellent contribution of Sydney Chamber Choir over four decades has expanded the Australian choral repertoire with over 50 commissions, many from leading composers. The Choir's performing, touring and broadcasting activities have brought ancient, modern and contemporary repertoire to a wide national audience.'

Award for Excellence in Music Education

Summary: The varied and strong entries included many demonstrating the rich activities in the field of music education. The panel members learnt a lot from the nominations and were pleased to note the richness of the activity taking place in regional and metropolitan areas.

Lorraine Milne for sustained contribution to music education (Winner) - 'For five decades, Lorraine's activities as teacher, author, composer, arranger and musical director have reached students at all levels, teachers and theatre audiences, among others. Lorraine's energy and creativity are undimmed, with major projects underway and completed this year.'

Moorambilla Voices for education work in north-west New South Wales - 'Celebrating ten years in 2015, Moorambilla Voices provides students, teachers and community members in the region with the opportunity to develop skills in music literacy, part- and choral singing and vocal technique.'

Topology for Top Up Music Education Program - ' A busy and sustained program of commissioning, performing and touring, accessible to participants of all ages, level of skill, socio-economic background, and genre preference, reached over 1600 participants in 2014.'

Sydney Symphony Orchestra for TunED-Up! - 'A high-quality intensive program for teachers, involving musicians and staff of the orchestra, equips increasing numbers of NSW primary school teachers with the skills, techniques and confidence they need to teach music effectively to thousands of students.'

Award for Excellence in Regional Area

Summary: The finalists demonstrate the high standard of nominees and the range of exceptional artists working in regional areas, many using digital technology, mixed media and contemporary sound art and music practices. The panel was pleased to note the expanding use of new music as a distinctive response to life in regional Australia, with flora and fauna, environmental protection, local history and traditional Aboriginal cultures as inspiration.

Boyd and Alison: Coalface 2014 - 'The fabulous and varied inventiveness of the musical responses to the 153 species of birds sighted in the Galilee Basin, Queensland, combined with the powerful installation, create an impact that extends well beyond the original site of this work.'

Moorambilla Voices: Moorambilla Voices Program 2014 - 'Founded on the principles of excellence, equity of access and the celebration of rich regional and Indigenous culture, Moorambilla Voices in 2014 provided a high-quality musical experience for many children and young people in remote New South Wales.'

New England Conservatorium of Music: New England Sings! (Winner)- 'The achievements of this extraordinary program in northern New South Wales include choristers of all ages - child to adult - working with esteemed local and visiting artists to create culminating performances of all-Australian repertoire, accompanied by local orchestras and ensembles.'

Tyalgum Music Festival: 2014 activity - 'The 2014 Festival is notable for the excellent calibre of the visiting artists and the fine programming which features an impressive number of Australian works performed in the beautiful setting of the Northern Rivers of New South Wales.'

Award for Excellence in Jazz

Summary: The finalists, emerging from a select group of entries, are indicative of the multi-faceted projects and programs involving commissioning, recording, touring and performing - sometimes all of these - undertaken by individuals and organisations.

Peter Knight for leadership, composition, performance, curation - ''As well as guiding the Australian Art Orchestra through a major restructure last year and leading the ensemble's national and international tours, Peter composed and performed prolifically and was selected for the prestigious Music Omi residency in Hudson, New York.'

PBS106.7FM for the Young Elder of Jazz Commission project - 'This is a rare and imaginative project, providing a well-designed and professionally resourced career-enhancing opportunity for a Melbourne-based composer or musician and a collaboration with the Melbourne International Jazz Festival.'

Alister Spence/Joe Williamson/Christopher Cantillo for Begin - 'First performing in 2009, this ensemble explores a sound palette that ranges from raucous earthy momentum, to lyrical beauty, to textural other-worldliness. This album of wonderfully integrated improvisations, recorded after the trio's third tour, has won critical acclaim and was a recommended new release in the New York City Jazz Record, March 2015.'

Julien Wilson for recording and touring asociated with the establishment of Lionsharecords (Winner) - 'The brilliance, warmth and humanity of Julien's playing, and his untiring efforts to build the label and manage and promote the associated activities underpin the success of Lionsharecords. His invitations to many interstate musicians have helped break down enclaves and foster bonds between disparate scenes.'

Award for Excellence in Experimental Music

Summary: The panel was pleased to note the tremendous diversity in the nominations and the increasingly wide range of sound sources and instrumental forces appearing in this vibrant and constantly changing area of the Australian musical landscape.

Luke Johnson for Ornate Boredom Machine - 'A terrific example of outsider compositional technique, a genuine and uncontrived work and outburst by a gifted sound artist. An engaging listening experience.'

Richard Johnson for SoundOut Festival of Experimental and Improvised Music (Winner) - 'Richard's passion for the experimental arts and his promotion of improvising musicians are to the fore in this annual festival which fosters new and often surprising collaborations. That this all takes place in the regional limitations of Canberra only makes the achievement more remarkable.'

Jon Rose, Ensemble Offspring, Speak Percussion for Ghan Tracks - 'The skilled and convincing assembly of disparate elements - video, pre-recorded sound samples and live performance - contributes to the strong intellectual and aesthetic appeal of this work.'

Darrin Verhagen for 2014 activity and projects - 'This suite of intriguing audio-kinetic projects demonstrates the breadth of the artist's practice, including in experimental, immersive, single-participant installation-based works.'

> 2015 Art Music Awards - winners (Resonate 11 August 2015) - see also the APRA AMCOS website
> 2015 Art Music Awards - Distinguished Services Award to Larry Sitsky (Resonate 4 August 2015)
> 2015 Art Music Awards - performers and presenters (Resonate 4 August 2015)
> 2015 Art Music Awards - finalists announced (Resonate 20 July 2015)


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