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Christopher Sainsbury : Represented Artist

In many ways I consider myself to be a regionalist Australian composer. I reinterpret and reconstitute motives and images of my region in new works that fortify a sense of regional identity. It's largely about 'the local' for me.

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


Photo of Christopher Sainsbury

I was born on the Central Coast of NSW in 1963 and have spent most of my life in that region. Presently I live in Canberra where I am a Senior Lecturer in Composition at the ANU. I write orchestral music, chamber music, songs, choral music, and solo instrumental pieces including much guitar music (my instrument). I work in regional, community and professional contexts.

I largely look to my home region for inspiration. My PhD focus was on working as a regionalist composer, whish is about reinterpreting and reconstituting the motives and images of ones region in new works that fortify a sense of regional identity. It's important to me on many levels, and in part is informed by my Indigenous heritage. I am of mixed background and am a Dharug Aboriginal person (commonly known as Eora), from the region of Sydney and the lower Central Coast. Some works that display regionalism include 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 the Central Coast.

I draw upon many of the sounds of regional and community groups I was involved in during my formative years (the 1960s and 1970s). 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 considered ways than back then whilst playing or listening in the surf club halls, local musical society halls, and churches of the region. I think it's a bit of a signature in my work.

My guitar music includes the Concerto for Guitar written for Spanish virtuoso guitarist Jose Maria Gallardo del Rey, and it was featured at the Darwin International Guitar Festival 2002. And 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. And in 2020 I released my Ocean Song CD with the Random Earth Band which features Guy Strazz and myself on guitars. I consider it a cross between folk, jazz and surf music.

Going further back, in 1986 Richard Mills selected my orchestral work Horizons for the Queensland Theatre Orchestra, and in 1987 the ACO commissioned Homage to TS Eliot, and also my Voyage of the Endeavour for the Nouveaux Singers was commissioned for the World Expo Brisbane 88.

My research interests are contemporary guitar music techniques, regionalist music composition, and Aboriginal classical/new music. A selection of works that suggest my heritage include the Brackish Songs, First Light, Illawong Dreaming, Red Kangaroo Standing and North Country Sketches. I founded the Ngarra-burria First Peoples Composers program, and mentor in that group.

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


Christopher Sainsbury — current to October 2020

Teacher/Influence on

Troy Russell

Awards & Prizes

Year Award Placing Awarded for
2020 Art Music Awards: Luminary Awards - National (Individual) Winner initiating and driving Ngarra-Burria: First Peoples Composers program

Selected Commissions

  Work Commission Details
From the deep (solo double bass) (2020) Written as part of the Canberra Symphony Orchestra's 2020 Australian Miniseries.
Gallipoli Sensings : for wind trio (2015) Commissioned by curator Meredith Brice for the Contemporary Gallipoli Exhibition at Macquarie Gallery, Macquarie University, 2015
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.