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Don Kay : Represented Artist

Random Audio Sample: Dance cameos : for mandolin and wind quintet by Don Kay, from the CD Where no shadows fall

Photo of Don Kay

Don Kay's musical language has its roots in the tradition of Western art music but has been significantly shaped by his experience of Tasmania's environment and history.

Kay identifies Hastings Bay (1986) as the first mature piece that was a direct, conscious response to a specific personal experience of a specific place, acknowledged by the title. Two works, amongst a number important to him for reflecting this influence, are: Tasmania Symphony - the Legend of Moinee for cello and orchestra (1988), and Piano Trio, The Edge of Remoteness (1996).

Kay is aware that his response to Tasmania's natural world has developed an individualised, personal language which, liberated from literal and metaphorical connections, now permeates his abstract work. Piano Sonatas 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 & 12 (2009-2021): Intermezzo for Frances, Extraordinary Byways (both piano): Memento Mori, 5 operatic scenes for male and female solo voices and piano trio (2018); Symphony 4 (2017), Concerto for Trumpet with Winds and Percussion (2018) and Conflagration, the Tasmanian bushfires, Summer, 2018-19, for SATB soloists, chorus, two pianos and six percussionists, with text by John Honey (2019) are among his more recent works.

Don Kay was born on January 25th 1933 in Smithton, Tasmania. He was educated at Smithton Primary School, Launceston Church Grammar School and the University of Melbourne where he gained his music degree. He studied composition privately in London with Malcolm Williamson (1959-1964).

Since returning to Hobart in 1964 he has composed much music for professional individuals, ensembles, young performers, amateur groups, theatre, concert and public occasions. His compositions include two one-act operas, a major two-act opera (The Bushranger's Lover), seven concertos, four symphonies, vocal, choral and chamber music, including six string quartets. His works have been performed Australia-wide and internationally.

Works to have received special awards include: The Golden Crane (a one-act opera for young people's theatre with libretto by Gwen Harwood); Tasmania Symphony - the Legend of Moinee (for cello and orchestra); and Dance Concertante (for string orchestra).

In 1991 Don Kay was appointed a Member of the General Division of the Order of Australia for his service to the Arts, particularly in the field of composition. In 2001 he was awarded a Centenary Medal for an outstanding contribution to music, music education and composing in Tasmania. In 2010 he was awarded the Clive Lord Memorial Medal by the Royal Society of Tasmania.

Kay retired from the staff of the Tasmanian Conservatorium of Music in 1998 having served as Head of Department from 1990 to 1993. He now composes full-time, but has maintained his association with the Conservatorium as an adjunct professor, and continues to be involved in teaching composition on a casual basis.

A playlist of Kay's compositions is available to view on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLa8PUTJBYOu874_n9I-0T_cQINBv1H_9h

Don Kay — current to January 2022

Teacher/Influence on

Simon Barber (1995 - 1997)

Paul Cutlan (1983 - 1987)

Angus Davison

Simon Reade (1995 - current)

Awards & Prizes

Year Award Placing Awarded for
1991 Order of Australia Member of the Order For service to the arts, particularly in the field of music composition

Selected Commissions

  Work Commission Details
Digital sheet music sample Search to Find : for solo cello (2022) Commissioned by Dominic Flynn for performance by James Anderson.
Digital sheet music sample Concerto for Trumpet with Winds and Percussion : version for trumpet and piano (2020) Composed for Simon Reade
Digital sheet music sample Muse Unbounded : four short pieces for viola quartet (2020) Composed at the invitation of Damien Holloway
Milestone Tribute : for alto saxophone and piano (2018) Composed at the invitation of Move Records as one of the short compositions to mark its 50 years of operation
Digital sheet music sample Slow Waltz Phoenix Rise : for cello and piano (2018) Composed for John and Maria Honey
Digital sheet music sample Lamentation : for brass quintet (2010) Composed for the Battery Point Brass Quintet

Analysis & Media

- Article: Tasmania in music

- Article: Dawn of a new world symphony

- Video: Northward the Strait

- Video: The Hanging Rock, Mt Roland