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Stephen Holgate : Represented Artist

Who I am, in this spiritual and expansive Australian landscape, informs my approach to creating an authentic voice and idiom for each piece

Random Audio Sample: Moments from return (solo piano) by Stephen Holgate, from the CD Australian piano miniatures

Photo of Stephen Holgate

Stephen Holgate says of his music: 'Who I am, in this spiritual and expansive Australian landscape, informs my approach to creating an authentic voice and idiom for each piece that draws flexibly on my delight in instrumental colour and percussion, my fascination with sound texture and my personal harmonic and melodic idiom.'

Born in England in 1953, Holgate has lived in Australia since 1965. Gaining a Diploma of Teaching (Primary) in 1974 he continued his music studies with a Bachelor of Music (1979) from the Melbourne of University.

His fascination with instrumental texture and colour, and his personal awareness of composing from a sense of place, were informed by his composition studies with Barry Conyngham and subsequent contact with Peter Sculthorpe. At the same time, his discovery of the cultural, spiritual and intellectual traditions of the Catholic faith also began to provide a rich and enduring source of inspiration for his music.

Participation in the Darmstadt International Summer School of New Music (1980) brought Holgate into contact with French composers Gerard Grisey and Tristan Murail, motivating him to orchestrate evolving instrumental textures and colourful sound aggregates modelled on the internal micro-acoustic characteristics of sound. These ideas were convincingly integrated with his personal harmonic and melodic language in works such as Continuum (1984 ABC Young Composers' School) for orchestra and To the Heavens (1985) for wind quintet.

Holgate's involvements in community music development included his Composer in the Community appointment in Wangaratta (1981) with Arts Victoria; and his Community Coordinator role with the Bendigo Musician Teacher Project (1984-1987), a State initiative involving nine musicians in performer/teacher roles. This experience motivated a number of works for community and school ensembles.

Education has been a significant part of Holgate's varied professional life, embracing teaching, administration, curriculum and consultancy roles in both primary and secondary schools. His M. Ed. thesis (University of Melbourne) The Composing Process & Issues for Music Curriculum researched the nature of compositional creativity and proposed models for assessment. A desire to integrate his faith and work motivated him to accept positions in Catholic schools. Post-graduate studies in theology led him to his current position at Sacred Heart College, Kyneton where he coordinates Religious Education.

Recent composing projects have focused on music for liturgy and music reflecting themes of spirituality, including Tower of the Spirit (1999), a CD and piano/ vocal score comprising songs and instrumental music.

Holgate has received numerous commissions through the Australia Council and his works have been performed and broadcast by performers including the SSO (Hopkins), QSO (Mills) and Michael Kieran Harvey as well as by community and school ensembles. Holgate and his wife Margaret live in Romsey, Victoria , where they have raised six children.

Further details about Holgate can be found in Brenton Broadstock's Sound Ideas: Australian Composers Born Since 1950 (Sydney, 1995) and The Oxford Companion to Australian Music (Oxoford Univeristy Press, 1997)

Biography provided by the composer — current to February 2006

Selected Commissions

  Work Commission Details
Earth dream : treble choir with chamber ensemble (1985) Commissioned by the Castlemaine Area Schools Music Committee