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Christopher Sainsbury : Associate Artist

I consider myself to be a regionalist Australian composer. I look to local images for inspiration—whether natural or cultural, and reassemble them interpretatively in new works that give me meaning and joy in contributing to the ongoing local story.

Random Audio Sample: Bushfire : concerto for cor anglais and strings by Christopher Sainsbury, from the CD Bushfire

Photo of Christopher Sainsbury

I was born at Gosford in 1963 and have spent most of my life in that region. I write orchestral music, chamber music, songs, choral music, and solo instrumental pieces including much guitar music (my instrument). I love the orchestral medium, and am fortunate enough to write frequently for various professional and community orchestras, and as such I have a growing body of orchestral works, including works for youth orchestra.

I largely look to my home region for inspiration. Some work resulting from this stance includes First Light for the Central Coast Symphony Orchestra, which subsequently won the New England Philharmonic Orchestra's Score Competition (Boston, 2010-11), and the Brackish Songs for mezzo-soprano and guitar, which are stories of belonging and growing up on the shores of Avoca Lake (at home). My PhD focus was on working as a regionalist composer.

My guitar music includes the Concerto for Guitar written at the invitation of Adrian Walter for the Spanish virtuoso guitarist Jose Maria Gallardo del Rey, and it was featured at the Darwin International Guitar Festival 2002. As well as many small guitar solo works there is My Eye Has Seen My Desire (for bass recorder and guitar) which was originally featured in a European tour by Dutch greats Erik Bosgraaf and Izhar Elias in 2004.

Going further back, in 1986 Richard Mills selected my work Horizons for the Queensland Orchestra's New Music Concert Week, and in 1988 the ACO commissioned Homage to TS Eliot, and also my Voyage of the Endeavour for the Nouveaux Singers was performed at the World Expo Brisbane.

I enjoy many styles and composers. I love community music-making and draw upon many of the sounds of community groups I was involved in during my formative years (the 1960s and 70s). The various casual dissonances, out of kilter rhythms, wrong counterpoints, collisions of chords, false entries, etc from those years now surface in my music in more mitigated ways than back then whilst playing or listening in the surf club halls, local musical society halls, and churches of the region.

My research interests are contemporary guitar music techniques, regionalist music composition, and Aboriginal classical and new music. I am of mixed background and am a descendant of the Dharug (known as Eora) Aboriginal people of Sydney which is quite unusual for a composer in this country, especially given the focus on Indigenous referencing. A selection of works that suggest my heritage include the Brackish Songs, First Light, Illawong Dreaming and North Country Sketches.

I still use pencil and manuscript to work with, and Finale to render scores neatly.

Chris Sainsbury — current to March 2016

Selected Commissions

  Work Commission Details
Digital sheet music sample Ratoos : for flutes in 3 parts (2015) Requested by Gosford flute teacher Rosalie Bourne
Digital sheet music sample Concert overture : Beach holiday : full orchestra : youth orchestra (2014) Commissioned by Central Coast Youth Orchestra.
Digital sheet music sample First light : full orchestra (2007) Commissioned by Christopher Bearman, Central Coast Symphony Orchestra.
My eye has seen my desire : for bass recorder in F and guitar (2004) Requested by Izhar Elias for European tour 2004, and Australian tour 2005.
Homage to TS Eliot : string orchestra (1987) Commissioned by the Australian Chamber Orchestra under Carl Pini, after the composer won the Young Australian Composer 1986