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Tony Backhouse : Represented Artist

Backhouse composes and arranges mainly for a cappella choirs, always with an ear to vernacular traditions - contemporary funk, African choirs, gospel - and to anything polyphonic.

Random Audio Sample: The Lord's prayer (satb choir with solo voice(s)) by Tony Backhouse, from the CD Deluxe

Photo of Tony Backhouse

Tony Backhouse (b. 1947) completed a B.A. (English), and B.Mus. (Composition) at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, under the tutorship of composers David Farquhar and Jenny McLeod. He later completed a graduate course in Ethnomusicology (focusing on blues and gospel) at Memphis State University, USA.

Backhouse composes and arranges mainly for a cappella choirs, always with an ear to vernacular traditions - contemporary funk, African choirs, gospel - and to anything polyphonic. Works that typify his style are Jubilation and In the Shadow of Thy Wings (Café of the Gate of Salvation).

In the early seventies, Backhouse composed and performed music for NZ radio, theatre and film, but most of his energies were spent in NZ funk/soul/pop bands, including the Crocodiles (which won three Recording Industry Awards in 1980).

Since relocating to Australia in 1981, Backhouse has sung and/or played guitar with Renée Geyer, Joe Walsh, Jenny Morris and many others, and has arranged and recorded backing vocals for Dave Dobbyn, Tim Finn, Vince Jones and others.

Backhouse's songs have been recorded by Jenny Morris, Renée Geyer and others, and he has contributed to film soundtracks including Sweetie (Jane Campion), Rodney & Juliet (Fane Flaws) and Brain Dead (Peter Jackson).

In the mid-eighties Backhouse became deeply immersed in the Black gospel tradition, and, as a result, increasingly involved in community music, choral directing and running vocal workshops. He founded the a cappella quartet the Elevators, a cappella gospel choirs the Café of the Gate of Salvation and the Honeybees, and a cappella quartet the Heavenly Light Quartet.

Backhouse has received awards from the Contemporary a Cappella Society of America and composer commissions from The Song Company and the Australia Council. In 1990 he received an Australia Council International Study Grant to research Black gospel traditions at Memphis State University. In 2006, his song Lost In The Heavenly Light was nominated for the Australian Classical Music Awards for Vocal Work of the Year.

Since 1987, Backhouse has been running vocal workshops throughout Australia and New Zealand, Canada and the UK, and has been a solo performer at festivals throughout Australia. His current activities include running workshops in a cappella traditions, composing and arranging for vocal ensembles and choirs, directing and singing with the Heavenly Lights, and recording original music with Peter Dasent and Fane Flaws.


A cappella - Rehearsing For Heaven (2000) - Black gospel songbook

Move On Up (2004) - Black gospel songbook

Freeing the song (2010) - handbook on directing vocal groups

In The Spirit (2020) - 14 orignal choral pieces (composed initially for the Cafe Of The Gate Of Salvation)

Tony Backhouse — current to January 2021

Selected Commissions

  Work Commission Details
Digital sheet music sample Save me some grace : for unaccompanied SAA choir (1995) Commissioned by Sydney Children's Choir.
A Window in heaven (sa choir with solo voice(s)) (1991) Written through a commission from the Cafe of the Gate of Salvation and the Australia Council Music Board.
The heart of Jesus (satb choir with solo voice(s)) (1991) Commissioned by the Australia Council/Cafe of the Gate of Salvation

Analysis & Media

- Program note: Martin Wesley Smith 50th Birthday Concert