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Michael Easton (1954-2004) : Represented Artist

Random Audio Sample: Five for ten (solo piano) by Michael Easton, from the CD Piano games

Photo of Michael Easton

Michael Easton was born in Hertfordshire, England, in 1954. He was encouraged to pursue music by a local composer, Elizabeth Poston, and eventually entered the Royal Academy of Music where the help and encouragement of Sir Lennox Berkeley confirmed his ambition to be a composer. On leaving the Royal Academy he was employed in the music publishing world, first with J & W Chester and then with Novello & Company. As an ambassador for their publications he was required to travel widely in Europe, America and the Far East. This brought him to Australia where, in 1982, he was head-hunted by Allans Music and decided to make Melbourne his home.

Once in Australia he quickly established himself as a practical and inventive composer able to respond to commissions of all kinds, as a brilliant arranger of other people's music, and as an all-round musician of wide abilities. By 1986 he felt able to retire from the music publishing world and devote himself entirely to work as a freelance composer. This, however, did not prevent him from forming an ongoing and notable duo-piano partnership with Len Vorster, and contributing many stimulating pre-concert talks to the Melbourne Symphony, Musica Viva and Opera Australia series.

Easton also became known as a provocative music critic for the Melbourne Age, Sunday Herald Sun and Soundscapes magazine and a frequent broadcaster for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. In 1990, in partnership with Len Vorster, he founded the Port Fairy Spring Music Festival: a concentrated long-weekend that embraces opera, ballet, orchestral and chamber music, jazz, talks, exhibitions, and involves musicians of international status. It is now firmly established as one of the most innovative events in the Australian music calendar.

Among the many commissions that came his way were a series of children's operas, beginning in 1986 with The Snow Queen and including The Emperor's New Clothes (1983) and the radio opera The Selfish Giant (1985). These proved immensely popular and have toured widely in Australia as a means of introducing young audiences to the pleasures of opera. Orchestral commissions included a number of concertos especially written for distinguished soloist friends, for example the Concerto for Piccolo and Orchestra (1990) for Frederick Shade, and the Concerto for Harp and Strings for Ieuan Jones. He also composed scores for numerous film and television productions.

Michael Easton's music reflected his own ebullience, energy and good humor. It is entirely accessible - reliant upon ear-catching melodies, piquant harmonies, and brilliant orchestration. The influence of French music (particularly that of Milhaud, Poulenc, and Ravel) and jazz is strong: the former a matter both of natural sympathy and the stimulation of his studies with Berkeley (himself a French-trained composer), and the latter an outcome of his own considerable skills as a jazz pianist. Wickedly witty, and beautifully crafted, it is music whose capacity to please at first hearing conceals depth and seriousness that may only gradually become apparent.

Michael Easton died in London on 5 February 2004.

Selected Commissions

  Work Commission Details
Voice not stilled : full orchestra (2000) Commissioned by Peter Kollinar
Digital sheet music sample Concerto on Australian themes for piano, strings and percussion (piano with string orchestra) (1996) Commissioned by the Chamber Orchestra of Geelong with funds provided by the Olver Oram Artistic Trust
Digital sheet music sample Concerto for Bernadette : concerto for piano accordion, piano and strings (1996) Commissioned by Bernadette Conlon.
Australian voices : treble choir with chamber ensemble (1988) Commissioning made possible through the generous support of the Myer Foundation and the Australian Bicentennial Authority
Sonatina for clarinet : clarinet with piano (1985) Commissioned by Ruth Bonetti.