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MOMENTUM III - Sue W COVID-19 Special Commissions

Online concert presentation of the winning works by Anne Cawrse, Nicole Murphy and Elizabeth Younan now available

In November 2020, the Australian Music Centre and Sydney Conservatorium of Music, University of Sydney, announced the winners of the three MOMENTUM III - Sue W COVID-19 Special Commissions, generously sponsored by Mrs Sue Willgoss and Associate Professor Richard Willgoss. The three artists to receive a $3,200 commission each were Anne Cawrse, Nicole Murphy and Elizabeth Younan. The commission enabled them to compose a new musical work for performance as part of an online concert presentation in 2021.

The video presentation is now available and includes the world premiere studio performances of three works:

Anne Cawrse: Grounded for cello and guitar
performed by Sharon and Slava Grigoryan

Elizabeth Younan: Poem for violin and piano
performed by Anna Da Silva Chen and Vatche Jambazian

Nicole Murphy: Glimpse for piano duo
premiered by Anna Grinberg and Liam Viney

The program of these three works is preceded by a 20-minute zoom interview presented by Richard Willgoss, introducing the composers and discussing their new compositions in detail.

Together, the interview and the performances of the MOMENTUM III commissions give a fascinating insight into artists’ work during the pandemic, as well as unveiling three strong new Australian chamber music works.

The MOMENTUM III judging process was challenging due to many high-quality proposals received by the deadline, but ultimately the three artists emerged as winners due to the strength of their applications and their original vision for the commissions. The panel consisted of Natalie Williams, Narelle Yeo, Paul Mason and Matthew Hindson, chaired by Richard Willgoss.

South Australian composer Anne Cawrse's new work, Grounded, for cello and guitar, for performance by Sharon and Slava Grigoryan, is a celebration of rediscovering simplicity and home in the time of COVID-19.

'Infused with joy and a lightness of spirit, it will celebrate the rediscovering of ourselves and the things we hold most precious. Grounded will be a gift to Slava, Sharon and their little boy Seb, and for anyone who has unexpectedly regained a part of themselves in these strangest of times', Cawrse described her project at the time of the winners announcement. 'For me, 2020 has been full of contradictions, surprises, and unexpected joys; I am delighted to have this wonderful opportunity to reflect upon and give musical voice to my experience of this most unforgettable of years', she said.

Clockwise from left: Elizabeth Younan; Anne Cawrse, Nicole Murphy.

Brisbane-based Nicole Murphy's piano duo Glimpse, was inspired by Zadie Smith’s recently published essay collection, Intimations. Smith’s essays present fragmented glimpses into life during the initial stages of the pandemic.

'The writing moves swiftly between settings, observations and opinions, never quite settling with any certainty. These swift changes that present both moments of optimism and pessimism reflect the uncertainty and fluidity of current times', Murphy said. Both practical and artistic reasons informed the choice of instrumentation - artistically, the two pianos will represent the plurality of ideas in Smith’s essays. 'I’m delighted to have the opportunity to reflect on and respond to such a unique time in history', the composer commented.

An Australian composer of Lebanese heritage, Elizabeth Younan, wrote her duo Poem for violinist Anna Da Silva Chen and pianist Vatche Jambazian in response to Kahlil Gibran’s 'On Joy and Sorrow' from his seminal 1923 book, The Prophet. The work aims to bring a voice to the composer's own reflections during the COVID-19 era, and shine a light on Australians’ shared multiculturalism.

'MOMENTUM Commission will allow me to capture the struggle of today’s global crisis whilst offering hope - seen, perhaps, in the very act of fruitful collaboration itself', Younan said. 


Background to the MOMENTUM III - Sue W COVID-19 Special Commissions

MOMENTUM III - Sue W commissions are a partnership between the Australian Music Centre and Sydney Conservatorium of Music, generously sponsored by Mrs Sue Willgoss and Associate Professor Richard Willgoss.

In the midst of the restrictiveness of a WW2 prison camp, a composer responded by writing a work that he and three other inmates could play together on instruments that just happened to be available. They made music nonetheless and astounded the other admiring inmates with such uplifting action. The composer was Olivier Messiaen and the work was called Quartet for the End of Time (1941). Today it is now COVID-19 restrictions upon our freedoms that move us to reflect on how we might respond.

The Australian Music Centre has been working hard recently to provide income for composers through new schemes generically called MOMENTUM. Also, as part of the initiative to support female composers in their career aspirations, the Sydney Conservatorium of Music at the University of Sydney normally offers an annual Sue W composition prize. The prize is sponsored by Mrs Sue Willgoss and Associate Professor Richard Willgoss who support creative art music composition in Australia.

In 2020, both institutions were working together to offer composition prizes valued up to $10,000 in the form of three commissions of $3,200 each to compose and broadcast new works online. The awards were conditioned by restrictions of operating in the COVID-19 pandemic environment.

Proposals were invited for composing a new work for a group of between two and eight players and for non-wind musical instruments, with a duration of five to six minutes, reflecting upon the COVID-19 pandemic. The winners of the three commissions of $3,200 each were expected to compose the music, get it performed and make a video of the performance, intended to become part of an online concert presentation.

Applicants for these commissions needed to identify as women and be Australian citizens or permanent residents. Applicants were required to submit one composition (or movement of a composition) in PDF format for consideration with its accompanying score for the judges to review, a matching sound recording in MP3 format not exceeding six minutes in length, and a maximum of 200 words outlining the proposed new work.

Permanent staff members of the University of Sydney and of AMC, including close relatives, were not eligible to apply for this competition.