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Ralph Middenway : Represented Artist

I am not interested in fashion; I write for performers and audiences; the stuff of music is the building and release of tension. Given my theatre work and my love of the human voice, I have inevitably gravitated towards opera.

Photo of Ralph Middenway

Photo: Aina Dambitis

Artist website: http://www.middenway.com

Ralph Middenway was born in Sydney on 9th September 1932. At Sydney University, Peter Platt and Donald Peart greatly influenced him. He sang in choirs, notably with Vincent Shepherd and Norman Johnstone, and has conducted a bit (voices, usually with instruments). He studied composition with Eric Gross, and his guru, Raymond Hanson, who introduced him to the philosophy of Paul Hindemith.

Unconscious influences probably include Paul Dukas, Maurice Ravel, Arthur Honegger, Ralph Vaughan Williams, William Walton, Hugo Distler and perhaps Carl Orff.

He worked as a teacher, theatre manager, stage director, production manager and theatre consultant. For five years he was Warden of Adelaide University Union, and over the next five set up and ran an SA Government statutory authority.

He came of age working with Patrick Thomas (and the ABC Adelaide Singers, Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and West Australian Symphony Orchestra). Other notable performers include Elizabeth Campbell, Australian String Quartet, Australian Brass Quintet, Robert Dawe, Sally Mays, the Australian Youth Orchestra and Michael Kieran Harvey. His music has also been performed in Europe, North America and Japan.

His three operas are: The Letters of Amalie Dietrich, a one-act four-hander commissioned by State Opera of South Australia; Barossa, a Singspiel commissioned by Brian Chatterton for Australia's Bicentennial; and The Tempest, with 15 singers, 6 dancers and 2 actors. The Enchanted Island (from The Tempest) was funded by the Mara Dole Foundation.

For twenty years Middenway was a critic and feature writer for publications including Australian and Advertiser newspapers. He still works as a writer and editor-e.g. in 2001 co-editing a book of essays on Parsifal for the South Australian Wagner Society.

In 2008 he and his wife sold their native flower farm near Adelaide and now live in Hobart, where his music is being archived in the Tasmanian Conservatorium Library.

One recent major project was a new full performing edition of the Play of Daniel, to be sung in Latin. One version was specific to St David's Cathedral, Hobart. The second is adaptable as to venue, scale and instrumental preference. The third, with translator Professor Emerita Rosemary Lloyd, is for Francophones.

Another large project was a long cantata about St Francis of Assisi, The Sun of Umbria, using poetry by Hobart poet and educator Clive Sansom.

In August 2015 he graduated with a PhD from the University of Tasmania, with a folio of compositions and an exegesis focussed on setting words to music.

Ralph Middenway — current to December 2015

Selected Commissions

  Work Commission Details
Digital sheet music sample Mosaics : for reeds and percussion duo Commissioned by Ryszard Pusz for performance by Duo Contemporain.
Digital sheet music sample The shepherd & the nymph : a post-modern pastorale for two young singers, with piano accompaniment (2013) Written for Jennifer O'Halloran, Hobart soprano
Digital sheet music sample What is our life? : song cycle for baritone, cor anglais & piano (2013) Written as part of folio for UTas composition PhD, awarded 2015
The John Clarke report : two songs for baritone and piano, one with optional SATB chorus (2009) Commissioned in 2008 for a 2009 Australia Day concert in St David's Cathedral Hobart, with funding support from the Hobart City Council
Digital sheet music sample The Tempest : an opera in two acts and eight scenes (2007) Partly commissioned through funding from Mara Dole Foundation, for proposed new orchestra in Latvia
Digital sheet music sample The Eye of heaven : 5 canzonets for chamber choir (2000) Written for Tom Farnan & Celia Brissenden