4 June 2019
Roger Covell (1931-2019)
Musicologist and critic, Emeritus Professor Roger Covell (1931-2019) died in Sydney on 4 June at the age of 88.
Covell made his academic home at the University of NSW, where he taught from the 1960s until his retirement in 1996. He initiated classical music programs on campus, established the UNSW Opera, and co-founded (with Murray Khouri) the University's celebrated Australia Ensemble.
Covell's steadfast support of Australian music manifested itself in the dozens of works he commissioned for UNSW Opera and the Australia Ensemble, acting as the ensemble's Artistic Chair until 2013. In his concert talks, he exhibited a rare talent for educating listeners as he shared his enthusiasm for new work with his loyal audience in the Sir John Clancy Auditorium at UNSW.
His seminal 1967 book Australia's Music: Themes of a New Society was the first major study of the history, development and performance of Western classical music in Australia. It is telling that this text was reprinted as recently as 2016 - almost 50 years on - in a revised edition with Covell's new postscript. As a long-term critic of the Sydney Morning Herald, Covell was also instrumental in educating the general audience through his regular reporting of Sydney's concerts.
Roger Covell was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in 1986 in recognition of his service to music. He received the Classical Music Award for Long-Term Contribution to the Advancement of Australian Music, presented by the AMC and APRA AMCOS, in 2006. His other awards include the Pascall Prize for Critical Writing (1993), and the Sir Bernard Heinze Memorial Award (2013).
In 2018, a new book Diversity in Australia's music - themes past, present and for the future (Cambridge Scholars), celebrated Roger Covell's contribution to Australian music and academic life over a long career.
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