20 August 2019
2019 Art Music Awards - what the judges said
© Georgia Moloney / APRA AMCOS
The 2019 Art Music Awards were celebrated yesterday at the majestic Great Hall of the University of Sydney, with the appreciative audience making a full house, and a good majority of finalists and winners present. The very successful live performance program was curated by Barney McAll and featured performances of music by Alice Chance (with audience joining in the performance guided through their mobile phones), Robert Davidson (with pianist Sonya Lifschitz performing excerpts from his finalist work Stalin's Piano), and improvised duo by saxophonist Scott McConnachie and organist Amy Johansen. The final performance of Ngarra Burria composer Rhyan Clapham's work 'Talk To Me I'm Listening', by members of Ensemble Offspring with Benjamin Kopp, Sonya Holowell and Chloe Kim, was an impressive and poignant conclusion to the evening.
In the weeks and months leading up to the ceremony, a large number of dedicated judges assessed a record number of nominations, compiling the shortlists and identifying this year's winners. The panels consisted of the following people: Adam Yee, Ben Frost, Brenton Broadstock, Claire Edwardes, Clare Maclean, David Malone, Diana Blom, Georgie Darvidis, Harriet Cunningham, Janet McKay, Jonathan Zwartz, Kate Lidbetter, Katie Noonan, Linda Kouvaras, Liz Terracini, Madeleine Flynn, Mark Ferguson, Mary Finsterer, Matthew Sheens, Matthew Wood, Melody Eötvös, Michael Barkl, Nick Deutsch, Nicole Murphy, Rachel Campbell, Robert Sazdov, Robyn Holmes, Sheena Boughen, Stephanie Eslake, Tim Matthies, Tony Gould, Tos Mahoney, Zoe Hauptmann.
The AMC and APRA AMCOS would like to thank them all for their time in judging the nominations - a very special thank you goes to Peta Williams for chairing the panels.
This is what our judges had to say about finalist works, artists and organisations. [Edited 21 August - Excellence in Experimental.]
Instrumental Work of the Year
Overall comment: An enormously impressive picture of the state of Australian music today. Such impressive, inventive pieces in such a wide range of genres and great aesthetic diversity. An increased number of submissions of high quality conversely creates real challenges in the judging process.
Robert Davidson: Stalin's Piano (2017). Performed by Sonya Lifschitz. A conceptually and technically interesting work to both see and hear through its powerful visual and aural landscape. Intense and completely absorbing, this work could be described as showcasing a uniquely Australian voice
Mary Finsterer: Ignis for viola d'amore and cello (WINNER). Ignis (fire) was composed for and first performed by James Wannan and Christopher Pidcock at the Canberra International Music Festival 2018. The work engages the listener immediately. The panel found it breathtakingly beautiful, surprising at every moment, and fascinating in the way it combines ancient gestures with contemporary string techniques. Compositionally fascinating at every single moment. A beautifully realised performance of a beautiful work.
Andrew Ford: String Quartet No. 6 (2018). Premiered in 2018 by the Flinders Quartet. A superb take on the string quartet's tradition of four movements. Each movement was engaging in a different way (the first movement entirely pizzicato); the subtle use of the material surprising. Brilliant craftsmanship; a great achievement and quite beautiful. An impressive use of harmonic language, textures and blending of sounds.
Elizabeth Younan: Piano Sonata. Performed by Joyce Yang. A most impressive work, and a mature composition for an emerging composer. A powerful and virtuosic work that also flows with transcendent chords and ethereal melodies. It is structurally sound with great attention to detail.
Jazz Work of the Year
Overall comment: The panel noted the outstanding quality of nominations to this category and that the diversity is wider than ever, raising that old-age question of what is jazz. There is great individuality shining through, with unique voices being heard. Many extraordinary and beautiful works were created and performed to the highest standard, making the job of judging extremely difficult.
Brenton Foster: Love, As We Know It. Performed by Brenton Foster, Stephen Magnusson, Gideon Brazil, Jordan Tarento & Aaron McCoullough. Composed in collaboration with acclaimed American poet, Christopher Poindexter, Love, As We Know It, is an 8-part song cycle which celebrates love in all its diversity. It is a terrific and substantial piece, and a great example of Foster's growing contribution to original Australian jazz repertoire.
Joshua Kyle: Trombone Song Cycle (WINNER). Performed by Josh Kyle (voice); James Greening, James Macaulay, Jordan Murray & Adrian Sherrif (trombones); Andrew Murray (conductor). Trombone Song Cycle is a distinctive and impressive collaboration between creative vocalist and composer Josh Kyle and arranger Andrew Murray. Kyle has written a collection of obscure love songs that have been arranged by Murray for trombone quartet and voice - a rare choice of instrumentation that leads to a totally unique and captivating sound. The panel found the writing and overall concept both outstanding and beautiful, and thought this work and its arrangement most creative, original and innovative.
Katie Noonan / Zac Hurren / Stephen Magnusson / Michael Leunig: Gratitude & Grief. Performed by Elixir featuring Katie Noonan with Michael Leunig. This ambitious and moving work was developed over roughly four years of rigorous collaboration between Elixir (namely Zac Hurren, Katie Noonan, and Stephen Magnusson) and Australian poet/artist Michael Leunig. Composed by Zac Hurren and Katie Noonan and further developed by both Elixir and then with Stephen Newcomb, Iain Grandage and Joe Chindamo as arrangers, this is a beautiful and evocative work with wonderful creative, musical and lyrical content.
Ross McHenry: Nothing Remains Unchanged. Performed by Ross McHenry Quartet featuring Eric Harland, Matthew Sheens, and Ben Wendel. Composed at a month-long composition at the renowned Banff Centre for the Arts in Canada, Ross McHenry's new album Nothing Remains Unchanged represents a significant contribution to new Australian jazz. It was recorded in New York City with NYC-based Australian pianist Matthew Sheens and acclaimed US-based jazz luminaries Eric Harland (drums) and Ben Wendel (saxophone). This wonderful and imaginatively original work is a great example of the way the composer seeks to reflect the unique and changing cultural landscape of Australian creative music within the context of an increasingly interconnected global musical landscape through significant international collaborations and performances with leading artists across Australia and around the world.
Orchestral Work of the Year
Overall comment: The panel was pleased to see across the breadth of works an incredible amount of skill and technical ability, which is very heartening. Australian orchestral music has a healthy diversity of style and improved gender balance with a number of nominations received for works by women composers.
Melody Eötvös: Ruler of the Hive (2018) for orchestra and narrator. Performed by Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra with Pamela Rabe, narrator, conducted by Marko Letonja. The interweaving of narration into the orchestral playing is seamless and exciting. An accessible work, confident and mature writing for an emerging composer. Lovely writing, word painting, compositional craft and musical invention. A composer of great talent.
Elena Kats-Chernin: Lebewohl (Piano Concerto No.3). Performed by Queensland Symphony Orchestra, Tamara-Anna Cislowska (piano), Alondra de la Parra (conductor). Very beautiful, accomplished writing from a well-known and performed composer. A mature work from a senior artist that fully utilises the pianist's keyboard agility and depth of sound to create a virtuosic part that assists to realise the work's grand ambitions.
Cathy Milliken: DACCORD (2018) for guitar, soprano and orchestra. Performed by Jessica Aszodi (voice) & Vladimir Gorbach (guitar), and the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Benjamin Northey. A most successful orchestral work. Incredibly well-written, with an impeccable score, a wonderful sense of colour and drama that evolves organically with a fantastic climax. A contemporary work that is singable, accessible and substantial. Cathy Milliken understands the discourse between guitar and voice with the instrumentation and dramaturgy working well to result in an intricate interweaving of soloist and orchestral forces.
Carl Vine: Implacable Gifts (Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra, 2018) WINNER. Performed by Kathryn Stott (piano) and Piers Lane (piano) and the West Australian Symphony Orchestra conducted by Rory Macdonald. A sophisticated and strong piece of writing from another one of Australia's best-known and often performed composers. A work of great beauty and refinement that handles a large orchestra and two pianos with great integration, craft and balance.
Vocal/Choral Work of the Year
Overall comment: The panel commented on the incredibly diverse, extensive, challenging, and breadth of styles within vocal and choral music in Australia today, with a very high standard in the execution of approach. While this breadth of style and high standard made it particularly difficult to rank the nominations, it also made it very exciting.
Rachel Bruerville: In Due Season, with text by Adelaide poet Valerie Volk. Performed by Adelaide Chamber Singers. A beautiful and evocative narrative that explores the last moments of a relationship torn apart by death. The intertwining of lines of melody and text mirrors the complex web of emotions that grief can bring so that the overall work deals with grief, closure and finality in a beautiful and heart-wrenching way. It is a work that brings back the classical aspects of compositional approach, with an elegant execution of voice leading and counterpoint, and the composer's approach to structure combines all these elements to convey a strong aesthetic and style. It also conveys the tenderness and personal treatment of the voice. The use of text is beautifully and expressively articulated.
Alice Chance: The Audience Choir. Performed by audiences with Ensemble Offspring. Alice Chance's The Audience Choir is a masterpiece of audience engagement. Chance leads her 'audience' choir in singing a simple set of melodic phrases, bringing an almost professional performative quality out of her layperson audience through her rare mastery of choral leading and composition. The compositional intention is clear and carried out with integrity. It is inclusive of an audience of all ages and musical ability; its use of technology (including mobile phone accompaniment) is innovative, creating an external human connection through sound. The composer's rapport with the audience is very strong and the work has a simple beauty that in this work's structure and approach is ground-breaking.
Andrew Ford: The Drowners. Performed by Ruthless Jabiru, Kelly Lovelady conductor, Morgan Pearse baritone. The Drowners is built on six vivid texts around death or near death by drowning. The heart of the piece is a letter written in the West Australian Bush in 1837 by the botanist Georgiana Molloy about the drowning of her infant son, which then draws a line to Syrian toddler Alan Kurdi, who was photographed face down on a Turkish beach in 2015 and became the representative image of the global refugee crisis. The orchestration is very beautiful, and the way the composer combines instruments with voice is full of colour with obvious sophistication. A beautiful timbral palette, harmony and instrumental sounds. Moments of release in this piece are beautifully achieved.
Damien Ricketson: The Howling Girls (WINNER). Performed by Sydney Chamber Opera. This wordless opera begins with an initial idea and the composer is very faithful to that. This idea moves through the conceptional process and structural approach to arrive at a successful conclusion, taking the listener with him. The formal processes of composition are clearly defined in this challenging topic. Damien Ricketson manages to bring aesthetic and compositional technique together, allowing the rendering of the artwork to be very well integrated. It is a mesmerising, at times ethereal, work, that successfully incorporates electronics, dramaturgy and acoustic means into one gesture that is played out over the hour. This work is quite ahead of its time. An authentic voice in the Australian musical landscape.
Excellence in Experimental Music
Overall comment: The panel noted the outstanding quality of work in this category from across Australia, making the assessment process to decide on a winner and finalists a challenging process.
Leah Barclay for 'Listening Underwater'. Listening Underwater is a large-scale experimental music and acoustic ecology project commissioned as a major new work for Horizon Festival 2018 on the Sunshine Coast. The project included two hours of original composition that draws on over a decade of Leah Barclay's hydrophone (underwater) recordings from freshwater and marine ecosystems across the planet. A high-quality project in its execution with a very clear goal and successful presentations that pioneered new technologies for surround sound site-specific performance. A fine example of making interactive work of excellence that engages well with its audience and community.
Bendigo International Festival of Exploratory Music for the 2018 Bendigo International Festival of Exploratory Music (WINNER). An ongoing festival of the highest calibre involving both local and international artists, commissions, world and Australian premieres, student involvement as well as colloqiuums, the Bendigo International Festival of Exploratory Music is the embodiment of experimentation and exploration. Its impressive list of musical works, including world premieres and Australian premieres, are not only seen in its region of Bendigo in the state of Victoria, but reaches a broader audience through ABC Classic live broadcasts and podcast on the ABC and media partner PBS-FM. A courageous, stimulating and imaginative place for high quality experimental music in the Australian landscape.
Thembi Soddell for 'Held Down, Expanding'. An artist working in Clunes, Victoria, Thembi Soddell has created a high-quality, experimental sound work that is deeply personal and addresses a really important and confronting issue, that of the corrosive experiences of intimate partner abuse and the confusing and often unspeakable impact that has on mental health. A very particular, well-crafted composition, detailed and powerful in its careful approach to taking an audience member into a sonic state, and be in that state. A very well considered form. This project is unique in the sense that it potentially removes the listener from their physical environment, and is at the other end of the spectrum to art music projects that have mass appeal. This is a project that has a life and will continue to have an impact in the future. Such innovative experimental art music should be encouraged.
Speak Percussion for Polar Force. Polar Force is a phenomenological investigation of wind, water and ice through sound, that emerged from a conversation between Philip Samartzis and Eugene Ughetti on the musical nature of the Antarctic soundscape. It is an example of ecoacoustic music and hyperrealistic sound performance in which all sounds, instruments (created for fit for purpose), performance space, floor, lights, costumes and tables have been captured, designed and built specifically for the work. A serious and thoughtful work, highly experimental in its thought processes, steps involved, and final execution.
Excellence in Music Education
Overall comment: The nominations to this category represented a wide range of important and valuable community and professional groups showcasing the amazing variety, depth of innovation and distribution of contemporary music across this broad and significant sector. Music education organisations are finding a variety of ways to engage with students in art music from early childhood to students of all ages, across the whole life-learning spectrum, and ranging from small communities to metropolitan areas, in ways that enhance the music development, engagement and capacity of Australian music.
Musica Viva Australia for Musica Viva In Schools' long-term music residencies. Musica Viva In Schools (MVIS) residency program brings teaching musicians, ensembles and music educators together with the teaching staff and school community for a long-term creative collaboration. The program takes a tailored, long-term approach, placing collaboration and sustainability at the forefront, working hand-in-hand with the school community to shift the culture to value music, and giving teachers the necessary resources to enable their students' ongoing music education. A program that demonstrates the powerful benefits to disadvantaged children of exposure to music and music training.
Speak Percussion for 'Sounds Unheard. Speak Percussion's 'Sounds Unheard' education program is designed to connect students with the music of now, offering opportunities for young musicians to learn from and work with leading professional musicians from Australian and beyond. It covers topics including composition, performance practice, improvisation, instrument design, dramaturgy, sound design, and performance aesthetics (lighting and set design). In particular, the artistic quality of its Artist Program, which sees a select number of young musicians taking part in a professional level public performance, is breathtaking. An inspiring program that provides a fantastic engagement opportunity for the community, and in particular, for young people. An incredible musical ethos.
Topology for the Queensland 'Top Up' program. An important priority for Topology in 'Top Up' is access by people living in regional areas to the same affordable, high-quality music education experiences available in metropolitan areas. Top Up brings together professional and young musicians to explore, create and perform new music, and enriches their communities and teachers, supporting curriculum delivery and professional development. There is fantastic engagement with young people by a comparatively small organisation doing great work with love and care. Its outreach and engagement are remarkable.
West Australian Symphony Orchestra (WASO) for Crescendo, an El Sistema-inspired free music education program (WINNER). The West Australian Symphony Orchestra's Crescendo program is the only program of its kind in Western Australia and teaches more than 350 students pre-Primary to Year 4 in two public primary schools in Kwinana. Sustained over four years, with evidence-based evaluations that are testament to its value, this vital and engaging project is arguably over and above the standard remit of expected music education activity of a symphony orchestra. It is sustained work the immerses young students in a program that they would not normally have the opportunity to be involved. Crescendo speaks to the heart of the WASO's company mission, 'to touch souls and enrich lives through music'.
Excellence by an Individual
Overall comment: A very strong round - the nominations to this category bring out the level of excellence in the community. In addition to sustained activity, there were pockets of activity in 2018 that were surprising and heartening and that demonstrated a great deal of personal initiative and sense of collaboration enabling other people in the community to take part. It was a joy also to see young people creating new practice in the communities around them. To have such a strong list at the top is both a joyful and challenging process - joyful about the quality of activity and sustained contribution, and challenging because there could only be one winner. The nominations to this category showed a real celebration of music activity in Australia today.
Cat Hope for leadership in the composition, performance and education of new music in Australia. Cat Hope is an original, inspiring and courageous artistic voice in Australian music. She has made major contributions to the field over 30 years as a composer, performer, conceptual artist, organiser, academic, curator and educator. Amongst her many impressive achievements is the way she uses her senior leadership position to leverage opportunities for the wider new music field, including in the areas of gender diversity in music, and in using the conceptual space for her music to address the fundamental questions of our times as we face global complexities around migration and the injustices arising from war and regimes of terror. Her work has both national and international reach. A formidable artist well-deserving of her national and international acclaim.
Michelle Leonard OAM for 2018 activities and lifetime achievement. Michelle Leonard has spent the last 25 years championing Australian art music, as conductor, artistic director and educator. She is well-known for founding Moorambilla Voices and the Leichhardt Espresso Chorus and has demonstrated a relentlessly positive approach to the ongoing creation, performing, sharing, recording and advocating for works by emerging Australian composers for choirs. Her commitment to developing music in a sustained way in regional areas, her fantastic reach, her commitment to having a wider arts ecology is something quite unique, and transcends traditional boundaries. Her work has a real-world impact beyond the music industry alone as it enters into the lives of children through music education. Michelle Leonard demonstrates strong leadership and initiative, and a real drive to do something remarkable.
Brian Ritchie for sustained contribution to the Australian music sector as a performer, curator and mentor. Since his relocation to Hobart in 2007, musician and arts curator Brian Richie has contributed to the wider Tasmanian and Australian music community in a multitude of ways, including performances, curation, mentorships and lecturing. Notably, Brian conceived the Museum of Old and New Art's Festival of Music and Art, MONA FOMA (Mofo) in 2009, before Mona was even built, which has changed not just Hobart's cultural landscape but also that of Launceston. The cultural impact of Brian Ritchie's vision, leadership and initiative in music curation, support of emerging musicians and mentoring, and cross-genre and cross-cultural work, and the sheer cultural impact of his work in Tasmania, has brought Tasmania to the attention of a national and international audience.
Lyn Williams AM for significant contribution to the creation and performance of choral music in Australia (WINNER). 2019 marks 30 years since Lyn Williams established her first choir. Since that time, Lyn has completely transformed the choral landscape in Australia by harnessing the incredible musical and expressive power of young voices through her world-renowned children's choirs. The Sydney Children's Choir, Gondwana Voices and the Gondwana Indigenous Children's Choir have all been created and sustained by Lyn. This has grown into the organisation, Gondwana Choirs, which puts the vocal power of young voices at the centre of its impressive and wide-reaching artistic program. Lyn Williams stood out in this category for her leadership and vision, her respect for children as well as her cultural respect and integrity, the fact that she created such extraordinary children's choirs from nothing, her amazing output and reach, and because of the legacy she is already creating through further generations of music lovers and music-makers. It is also a legacy of hope.
Excellence by an Organisation
Overall comment: The entries provided an overview of the role organisations play in Australian musical life. The panel found the range of nominations impressive, as well as the broad output, quality and diversity of the activities, and the longevity of a number of organisations. The panel congratulated the nominees on their support to the creation and presentation of new work and in particular new Australian music. Many organisations had a long history of commissioning Australian music. The panel also noted the growth and development of a comprehensive approach to programming - presenting, marketing, recording, reaching out to a wider audience - showing a deep and meaningful commitment to Australian music.
Canberra International Music Festival for a nationally significant art music festival, with sustained creative excellence, exception growth, cultivation of Australian music and unique national qualities. Over the past 25 years the Canberra International Music festival has grown into a major event of national significance. Building on the work of former artistic directors Nicole Canham and Christopher Latham, and, since 2015, under artistic director Roland Peelman, the festival has realised its identity as a provocative cultural drawcard exploring music and ideas. It embeds diverse Australian music within a context of international repertoire, inhabiting and exploiting distinctive architectural and natural sites and sonic spaces, creating memorable artistic experiences.
City Recital Hall for Extended Play Festival of New Music. Most venues shy away from serious investment in new art music, but City Recital Hall is an inspiring exception. With Extended Play, it presented the biggest new music event of Sydney's 2018 calendar - a 12-hour take-over of the venue with five performance spaces across the four levels. Over 20 ensembles comprising about 100 individual artists performed, attracting an audience of over 1,000. The City Recital Hall also took on a wholistic approach to this festival, not only producing and investing in the festival but also arranging exemplary marketing (print, television and social media), socialising areas that enabled interactions between audience members and performers, opportunities for emerging composers through linking with the Sydney Conservatorium, other points of entry for the audience, including involving audience members as creative beings in their own right. A truly wonderful initiative and a highlight of the 2018 Sydney calendar.
Plexus for sustained contribution to Australian music. Over the last five years Plexus has achieved exceptional success built on performing, collaborating, music education and in particular, commissioning some 100 new works, building the Australian new music repertoire. Its excellence in performance is matched by a high level of peer endorsement and a recognition of their sustained and successful contribution to Australian culture. Its collaborations include Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (as ensemble-in-residence), Australian Youth Orchestra, Monash University and Victorian Opera. Performances show an awareness of their audience, with an impressive breadth, reach and range in their programming. A genuinely creative and contributing organisation to our musical culture.
Zephyr Quartet for 2018 activities and for 20 years of sustained contribution (WINNER). With an output that defies genre, style and expectation, Zephyr Quartet's 2018 program was one that highlights the scope and diversity present in Australian culture today. Over its 20-year history the Zephyr Quartet has fearlessly championed new Australian work, building up a reputation as leading commissioners, producers and practitioners of cross-artform and cross-cultural collaborative performance practice. Its activities also involve mentoring and featuring emerging artists, excellent collaborations between improvised and repertoire-based programming, as well as both national and international performances. The growth in this quartet's international profile over time has been significant to the profile of Australian music overseas. The Zephyr Quartet proudly expands the boundaries of art music and what it means to us today.
Excellence in Jazz
Overall comment: An incredibly diverse and
brilliant list of wonderful music-makers, making it hard to
short-list because there were so many nominations worthy of being
The amazing, high-quality music presented within this category is testament to a vibrant Australian jazz scene that is working at such a high level nationally and internationally, including exciting collaborations with international musicians.
Andrea Keller for new works, projects, recordings
and educational output undertaken in 2018. With a truly
impressive body of new works, projects, recordings and
educational output undertaken in 2018, Andrea Keller is also
dedicated to strengthening the jazz community in Melbourne
through mentoring of emerging musicians, the establishment of the
'Girls Do Jazz' program, and ongoing residencies.
Her output, musicality, musicianship and creative work is not only outstanding but also both inspired and inspiring.
Ross McHenry for recording, international touring, residencies and commissions (WINNER). Ross McHenry is an exceptional and prolific contributor to the Australian jazz sector and the immense body of work he created across 2018 makes him a worthy winner of the 2019 Award for Excellence in Jazz. With an extraordinary output both nationally and internationally, 2018 was a real 'raising of the bar' for him and for the musicians he has around him. Ross McHenry demonstrated clearly a real spirit of excellence.
Jeremy Rose for artistic excellence. Jeremy Rose made contributions to the creation, presentation and promotion of Australian jazz in 2018 with consistently high artistic excellence. He is a great spokesperson for Australian jazz, dedicated to promoting others as well as his own activity, and always promoting Australian music. His music is strong and powerful, his output is extraordinary, and his support of the jazz community is fantastic, in particular through his Earshift Music record label. An excellent artist, Jeremy Rose is an exciting and big force on the Australian national music scene.
Niko Schauble for recording. Through Pughouse Studio, Niko Schauble has been responsible for enabling countless independent musicians to record and document their creative and new music. In 2018 alone over 25 albums/projects that were produced (recorded and/or mixed and/or mastered) at Pughouse Studios were released, with more than 100 projects since the studio's inception in 2012. Not only an outstanding musician in his own right, Niko Schauble's dedication to supporting high quality Australian music through Pughouse Studio is testament to his passion and commitment to Australian jazz and his fellow artists.
Excellence in Regional Area
Overall comment: Panel members were delighted to see the rich and diverse offerings that interpreted Australian art music development in regional Australia. They were heartened by the high quality of these projects and the ways in which these projects were enriching and adding cultural value to and within communities. Regions are not only providing quality music within their communities, but also drawing audiences from major cities to their communities. The impact and value of excellence in a regional area therefore is both for the local community and broader audiences throughout Australia.
Moorambilla Voices for 2018 activity. Moorambilla Voices continues to be distinguished by its fundamental and ongoing commitment to cultural competency and the making of art music that is created on country for children and youth from remote and rural NSW. It has a strong and consistent approach to engagement and participation that clearly enhances and enriches the lives of many young people in regional New South Wales. Through their touring and various high-profile performances, the dissemination of their work is extensive and impressive, flowing through the regions and beyond.
Steel City Strings for activities in 2018 and the previous four years (WINNER). It is wonderful to have such a high-quality ensemble with a focus on commissioning and performing Australian works in a regional area, in this case the Illawarra region and the NSW Southern Highlands. This nomination was a strong and convincing example of the strength and brilliance of Australian art music in a regional area with equal emphasis on the music and a genuine engagement and participation with emerging composers and musicians that has attracted people from both within and outside the region to attend. It has been a natural trajectory in this group's development to become more closely integrated into the regional art music environment. A real gem in the Australian musical landscape.
Queensland Symphony Orchestra for the Gladstone Enrichment through Music (GEM) program. The Queensland Symphony Orchestra's vision of presenting high-quality artistic programs showcasing the traditional and contemporary are a source of joy, transform lives and bring communities together. This is especially palpable in the community and education engagement activity that the Orchestra presents every year in Gladstone through its GEM program. The depth of the Orchestra's commitment to engage with many layers of the community - from teachers to students - has roots and is ongoing. This program ensures that people in regional Queensland who are very enthusiastic and capable musically are noticed and valued.
Warren H. Williams, Michael Sollis, and Barkly Arts for 'One Sky, Many Stories'. A beautiful evocation of cross-cultural and multi-arts, this project was impressive in its collaborative nature, its inclusion of both cultural and musical diversity, and the way it folded in the extra-musical elements in a consistent and coherent way. This project not only had a significant impact at the time of its development and presentation, but has the potential to continue to have an impact regionally and through metropolitan areas as well. This collaboration saw a huge transfer of skills and learnings from all individuals, and has had a profound impact on all of the artistic practices involved. A work that explores Western and Indigenous relationships to the night sky through new music and local stories from a diversity of Indigenous and non-Indigenous voices, 'One Sky, Many Stories' has since been performed in Perth, Canberra, and Sydney, projecting this work that celebrates regional Australia to a national platform.
Performance of the Year
Overall comment: The panel commented on the superb playing overall in this highly competitive category. There is a fantastic level of creativity happening in Australia, with a real sense of people trying to push boundaries. The panel remarked on the diversity of performances in terms of scale, complexity and ambition. This made it excruciatingly hard to pick individual winners, but reflects the dynamism of performance in Australia. The panel also felt a heart-warming level of faith by the performers that manifested in the performers' realisations of the scores that they were playing.
Ray Chen and Julien Quentin for Violin Sonata No.1 Dark Matter by Matthew Hindson. An exceptional, world class performance of a new work with such synchronicity of intent and execution between the composer and the performers. Every note was close to perfection. An outstanding realisation of the composer's score.
Ali McGregor, Antoinette Halloran, Dimity Shepherd, and the Victorian Opera Chamber Orchestra for Lorelei by Julian Langdon (composer) with Casey Bennetto and Gillian Cosgrif (librettists). A superb performance of this new work sustained by the professionalism, vitality and skill of the performers in realising all that was demanded of them. Supported by some of Melbourne's finest classical musicians, including Doug de Vries on guitar and Phoebe Briggs as musical director and conductor, the three singers were outstanding in their delivery of the important concepts of this work.
Speak Percussion and Jessica Aszodi for Atlas of the Sky by Liza Lim (WINNER). A fascinating and demanding work performed at the highest level. An extraordinary level of virtuosity in performance with great attention to detail and an impressive level of execution. The way that the professionals worked with a crowd of non-specialist performers from the community brought an incredible level of focus and emotional investment to the performance. A wonderful example of a high-quality performance that realised the ambition of the composer.
Taikoz, Riley Lee, Kaoru Watanabe, Sydney Symphony Orchestra conducted by Gerard Salonga for Breath of Thunder by Lachlan Skipworth. A very strong nomination that successfully managed the challenges of balancing Taikoz and the other instrumental soloists, the outstanding Riley Lee and Kaoru Watanabe, with the expanse and depth of an orchestral landscape, brilliantly realised by Sydney Symphony. An excellent work by a composer who knows how to write for the performers involved, giving a really compelling performance at a world-class level.
> Read also: 2019 Art Music Awards: winners! (Resonate 19 August 2019)
© Australian Music Centre (2019) — Permission must be obtained from the AMC if you wish to reproduce this article either online or in print.
Subjects discussed by this article:
- Implacable Gifts by Carl Vine
- Drowners by Andrew Ford
- String quartet No 6 by Andrew Ford
- Howling Girls by Damien Ricketson
- Ignis by Mary Finsterer
- Piano sonata by Elizabeth Younan
- Piano concerto no. 3 by Elena Kats-Chernin
- Ruler of the Hive by Melody Eötvös
- Audience Choir by Alice Chance
- DACCORD by Cathy Milliken
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