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30 May 2016

Composer & performer news, May 2016

James Ledger and Brett Dean paid a visit to the Canadian Music Centre during their stay in Toronto Image: James Ledger and Brett Dean paid a visit to the Canadian Music Centre during their stay in Toronto  

News about premieres, performances, awards, and new releases of music by Australian artists. 2016 seems to be a particularly great year for recording and releasing piano music!

Observant readers will have noticed that our news bulletin has been less than frequent recently, due to staff resources and many ongoing projects. For a constant supply of up-to-date music news and links, we recommend 'liking' our Facebook page and following our @AusMusicCentre Twitter feed. (If Facebook is reluctant to show our updates in your busy newsfeed, you can go to our Page and select the 'See first' option which is hidden under the 'Like/Liked' button, top right.)

New and recent releases

The complete piano works by Stuart Greenbaum, performed by Amid Farid, are among the latest releases by Move Records. The CD entitled Satellite mapping is available through the AMC Shop. A little earlier in 2016, Move released Julian Yu's mighty solo piano opus 126 Variations on 'Twinkle Twinkle Little Star', played by Michael Kieran Harvey - this project presents the same tune in an immense range of styles, demonstrating many different approaches to composition. A companion album, 70 More Variations on 'Twinkle Twinkle Little Star' includes works from composers around the world, including Australia.

Drummer Simon Barker's project to make music out of his other passion, barefoot running, has resulted in an album titled On Running, 'a collection of rhythmic chant cycles emerging in response to cyclic and meditative feelings experienced during long runs'. Along with Barker on drums and bass, the album features Phil Slater on trumpet and Carl Dewhurst on guitar. You can hear samples and buy the album on the Kimnara website (read also Simon's article about the topic on Resonate).

Kate Moore's compositions for cello feature on a new album, on Cantaloupe label, by the American cellist Ashley Bathgate. Moore and Bathgate first met back in 2009 and have collaborated since, whenever timing and schedules have allowed. The album was released on 20 May and can be ordered on the Bang-on-a-Can website. A new solo piano work by Moore is also included in the recent album Stone People by the US-based Australian pianist Lisa Moore.

Elena Kats-Chernin's compositions for piano have been released by ABC Classics, played by Tamara Anna Cislowska. The Butterflying CD is available from the AMC Shop.

Wirripang has released a brand-new collection of piano music by Andrew Schultz. Schultz's solo piano works composed over three decades are played by Antony Gray.

Tony Gould on the Art of Creative Music is a tribute to the Australian pianist, educator and musical thinker - and Australia's first professor of jazz. The release comprises an audio CD and a bonus one-hour video DVD documentary. See the AMC Shop for more details.

Spaceship Earth is Nonsemble's latest release: a set of five songs by Chris Perren that explore the relationship between human rationality and the chaos of nature. The album is available via iTunes, Spotify and Bandcamp - for details, see Nonsemble's website.

Cat Hope's works will be featured on a forthcoming album Ephemeral Rivers on the hat[now]ART label. The launch is scheduled for September.

Halcyon's crowdfunding campaign to record works by Larry Sitsky, Matthew Hindson and Ross Edwards reached its target in May. We're looking forward to a recording of Edwards's Five Senses to poems by Judith Wright (2013), Hindson's Insect Songs for mezzo-soprano and guitar (1998) and Sitsky's A Feast of Lanterns II - a Halcyon commission from 2015.


The premiere of Brett Dean's new opera on Shakespeare's Hamlet, to Matthew Jocelyn's libretto, has been confirmed for the Glyndebourne Festival in the UK in 2017.

Richard Mills's opera The Pied Piper will be performed by Victorian Opera on 28-30 July. Victorian Opera was among the fortunate new organisations to secure 4-year funding from the Australia Council for the Arts for 2017-20. See the VO website for more details about their current season.

The UK-based composer Luke Styles continues his opera-composing career with a new work as part of Mahogany Opera Group's initiative to commission a number of 10-minute operas for children's voices. Read more about Styles's earlier operatic works in his 'Insight' article on Resonate. Styles is currently in the early stages of writing a new dance piece to be performed by musicians from Les Arts Florissants, counter-tenor James Laing and the Paris dance company Les Corps Eloquents.

Liza Lim's opera Tree of Codes was premiered in Cologne, Germany, on 9 April by the MusikFabrik ensemble, to positive reviews. The prestigious Neue Zeitschrift für Musik wrote: 'Liza Lim has fully redeemed her claim to write, "an opera about bloodlines and memory, time, erasure and illumination." Tree of Codes conclusively joins concepts of Vanitas with garish caricatures of the present time in a tension between virtuality and an existential delimitation of scientific progress and the deepest archaic roots of the soul - a significant contribution to today's musical theatre and yet another milestone in creation from the composer born in 1966 in Australia.' Read also an interview with Liza on Resonate.

A new Australian opera by Kevin March was premiered in Canada by the Montreal Opera on 21 May. Read more about the opera Les Feluettes in March's 'Insight' article on Resonate. Les Feluettes will return to the stage in Canada in April 2017, performed by the co-commissioner Pacific Opera, Victoria.

George Palmer's opera Cloudstreet, based on Tim Winton's novel, has just had its premiere season in Her Majesty's Theatre in Adelaide, produced by the State Opera of South Australia. Read Michael Halliwell's review of the work in the Australian Book Review online.

Awards and grants

Australian Jazz Bell Awards shortlists were announced in May. AMC-represented artists that made the shortlists include Barney McAll, Mike Nock, Alister Spence and Paul Grabowsky. More details in this article on Resonate and on the Bell Awards website.

The UK-based Villiers Quartet's shortlist of three for their New Works competition included Ian Munro's String Quartet No. 1 from an exhibition of Australian woodcuts. The Quartet performed the works live in the final round of the competition in Oxford on 27 May.

Successful Australia Council grant recipients in the February round included AMC-represented artists Daniel Blinkhorn, Lyle Chan, Andrée Greenwell, Mark Isaacs, Anthony Lyons, Barney McAll, Anthony Pateras, Jon Rose and Nick Tsiavos. Other grant recipients include Riley Lee (to commission multiple new works), William Gardiner (to undertake a mentorship with Ben Frost), Joanna Drimatis (to commission new work from Cat Hope), Lawrence English, Madeleine Flynn & Tim Humphrey, Nigel Helyer, Richard Petkovic, Bree Van Reyk, Joe Tawadros, Astra Chamber Music Society, Bendigo Festival of Exploratory Music, Decibel, ELISION, Kupkas Piano, Liquid Architecture, Sirens Big Band, Speak Percussion and the Wired Lab. See also this news article on Resonate.

Brett Dean was announced as this year's Don Banks Award winner in March (read more on Resonate). The Banks Award is one of eight Australia Council Awards, recognising the significant achievements and contribution an artist has made to the vibrancy of Australian arts.

Julian Yu took home the Albert H Maggs Composition Award for his symphonic suite For our natural world. The Maggs Award is decided by an interstate committee of composers from the University of Melbourne and the University of Sydney, and the Award comes in the form of a new commission. More details on Resonate.

Performances and premieres

Australian Piano Quartet's 2016 concert series at the Sydney Opera House Utzon Room features new Australian works in three concerts. The first one, on 12 June, has the premiere of Lachlan Skipworth's piano quartet Polychronic; the concert on 16 July sees the premiere of a new work 'combining classical music and advances in biomedical technology' by Rebecca Chan and Dr Jordan Nguyen; while the 26 November event features the world premiere of Shell Chambers II by Elliott Gyger.

Melbourne Symphony Orchestra premiered two new Australian works on Sunday 21 May, as part of the Metropolis New Music Festival: Barry Conyngham's work Diasporas, and Michael Bakrnčev's Sky jammer. Other Australian music events during the festival included Australian Art Orchestra's 'Hymns to Pareidolia' (new work by Peter Knight and Austin Buckett), ELISION's Sacred Cities on 10 May (music by John Rodgers, among others), Plexus's flurry of new work on 11 May (Koehne, Grixti, Wade, Batt-Rawden, Parker), 'Crashing Through the Fences' by Press, Play on 14 May (Griswold, Davidson), plus many others.

A new saxophone concerto Macquarie's Castle by Elena Kats-Chernin was the centrepiece of this year's Chancellor's Concert at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. The SCM Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of Maestro Eduardo Diazmuñoz, also performed, as an Australian premiere, a movement from the ballet Faster, Higher, Stronger by Matthew Hindson.

The Cincinnati-based Douglas Knehans's Cello Concerto No. 2 Black City was premiered in Louisville, Kentucky, in March, with Paul York as soloist and the University of Louisville Symphony Orchestra conducted by Kimcherie Lloyd.

A concert of Penelope Thwaites's works took place at the Schott Recital Room in London at the beginning of May. Included in the program was her Missa Brevis (2015), premiered last year in Canberra, as well as other choral, vocal and chamber works.

Brett Dean curated Toronto Symphony's New Creations festival in March 2016 - in addition to Dean, in attendance were James Ledger and Anthony Pateras. Australian works heard over the festival included Ledger's Two memorials and Dean's Dramatis personae (9 March), Dean's Viola concerto and Pateras's Fragile absolute (5 March). Brett Dean also conducted a concert of Australian works with the BBC Symphony Orchestra on 1 April, with works by Lentz, Meale, Pateras, Meadowcroft and Dean in the program.

Andrew Ford's Missa brevis ('for all who seek asylum'), commissioned by four Catholic and Anglican cathedrals in partnership with Ars Musica Australis, will receive its third performance, this time by the Choir of St George's Cathedral, Perth, as part of the service on Sunday 19 June. The mass will also be sung at St Patrick's Cathedral, Melbourne, on 28 August. Ford's forthcoming premieres include the electric guitar concerto Raga for Zane Banks and the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra/Benjamin Northey, at the gala concert of the 2016 Adelaide Guitar Festival on 13 August.

Composer development and music education

Piotr Novotnik's collaboration with trance artist MarLo has just premiered at the EDC Festival in New York. The project was part of a new artist development program AMPlify TRANCE, initiated by the AMC and APRA AMCOS SongHubs program. Read Piotr's blog article about their work.

A new composer development program initiated by the Sydney Conservatorium of Music gives four emerging female composers the opportunity to be mentored by renowned composers and to write for leading Australian ensembles and musicians. Participating composers in the 2-year inaugural program are Natalie Nicolas, Elizabeth Younan, Clare Johnston and Ella Macens. Nicolas, Younan and Macens are postgraduate students from the University of Sydney, while Clare Johnston is a postgraduate student from the University of Melbourne. Mentoring composers for the program include Anne Boyd, Professor of Music at the University of Sydney, and Maria Grenfell, Senior Lecturer and Co-ordinator of Composition at the University of Tasmania Conservatorium of Music.

The University of Sydney's first MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) 'The Place of Music in 21st Century Education', launched in March, was developed by composer and Sydney Con lecturer James Humberstone. It centres on teaching music in the 21st century, urging music educators to rethink how technology is used to motivate school students to learn and make music. The MOOC is part of the University's first rollout of seven open online courses. More details.


Composer Lisa Cheney has been interviewed in the Cut Common magazine - a young online publication focusing on classical and new music in Australia - about her generally mixed feelings to do with the label 'female composer'.

Composer George Dreyfus and his son, Mark Dreyfus QC (Shadow Attorney General; Shadow Minister for the Arts) gave a joint interview to the Labor Herald (10 March). 'A fact few people in Australia would know is that one of Australia's most distinguished composers, George Dreyfus, handed out ALP how-to-vote cards for many decades in the Liberal stronghold of Higgins' the interview begins.

Sound artist Leah Barclay has been interviewed by Gail Priest for the now-entirely-online publication RealTime, about her work, including the biosphere soundscape project which has seen her travel to numerous UNESCO biosphere locations to work with local communities.

And finally, don't forget to read other recent composer interviews on the AMC's Resonate, with Anne Boyd, Gillian Whitehead, Nigel Westlake, Liza Lim and Rhonda Berry.


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