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16 September 2020

2020 Art Music Awards - ceremony and judging panel comments

Pianist Zela Margossian was one of the evening's hosts. Image: Pianist Zela Margossian was one of the evening's hosts.  

The 2020 Art Music Awards were celebrated on the evening of Tuesday 8 September under extraordinary circumstances - for the first, and hopefully the last, time in an entrirely virtual ceremony, with an audience of hundreds tuning in simultaneously from all corners of the world.

Because of the nature of the streamed event, greetings and speeches were kept short, which gave the near-live performance program, curated by Barney McAll, a chance to shine. The all-virtual audience, starved of live concerts over months of COVID-19 restrictions and lockdowns, was excited and grateful in equal measure, and generous in their comments and applause, delivered as over 700 emojis and short greetings via the YouTube chatbox.

The whole event will be available for watching until 8 October - to date it has had over 2,600 views - and the individual performances will remain accessible as high-quality videos via the APRA AMCOS YouTube Channel.

As is traditional, we can now share a summary of the hard work by this year's judging panels, giving the many impressive finalists some well-deserved exposure. The panels consisted of the following people: Katy Abbott, Cathy Applegate, Leah Blankendaal, Robert Braham, Daryl Buckley, Jessica Cottis, Harriet Cunningham, Amy Curl, Georgie Darvidis, Brett Dean, Louise Denson, Jenny Duck-Chong, Mary Finsterer, Mace Francis, Stuart Greenbaum, Jody Heald, Donna Hewitt, Robyn Holmes, Alexander Hunter, Ellen Kirkwood, Eve Klein, Linda Kouvaras, Alex Masso, Tim Matthies, Ros McMillan, Rhod McNeil, Angus McPherson, Nicole Murphy, Jessica Nicholas, Sarah Penicka-Smith, Damien Ricketson, Robert Sazdov, David Shaw, Ashley William Smith, Liz Terracini, Eugene Ughetti, Robyn Veitch, and Miriama Young.

The entire 2020 Art Music Awards ceremony will be available for watching until 8 October 2020.

The AMC and APRA AMCOS would like to thank all these people for their time in judging the nominations - a very special thank you goes to Peta Williams for chairing the panels.

This is what the judges said:

Work of the Year- Choral

Overall comment: The panel was delighted with the quality of nominations to this category, and in particular noted how appropriately written the pieces were for the groups involved, whether they be children's choirs, community choirs or long-standing professional choirs. The panel was impressed with the high level of compositional craft and musical quality. The panel also wanted to pay tribute to the performers. There were some phenomenal performances of the highest level in works that did challenge the performers involved.

Julian Day: A Civic Space. Performed by musicians from the Barossa region. The panel loved the inclusivity of community in this original and evocative work. Bringing together community musicians to create and perform this immersive sound work, was a rich, masterful and captivating experience for both performers and audience alike.

Paul Stanhope & Steve Hawke: I am Martuwarra (2019) for multiple treble choirs, SATB choir, piano and three percussionists (WINNER). Performed by Gondwana Choirs, Luminescence Chamber Singers, Valla Voices, Hunter Singers, and Resonance and Lyn Williams, conductor. The panel was impressed with this attractive and substantial work, a fitting opening work for the 2019 Gondwana World Choral Festival held at the Sydney Opera House. Well crafted and structured and both sensitive to, and technically challenging for, the variety of ages and standards of the children and young people involved. A texturally varied and interesting work that harnesses the richness of the multi-layered choral forces to great effect.

Gordon Hamilton: Requiem-Recomposed. Performed by Omega Ensemble and The Australian Voices and Gordon Hamilton, conductor. The panel was intrigued by this vibrant new choral work that was inspired by the content and circumstances of Mozart's final work. A work of real imagination that held interest all the way through. The movements evolved smoothly, the use of the text was effective, the writing for the instruments was skilled and well-crafted, with interesting vocal colours.
An engaging, clever and interesting work.

Ross Edwards: Singing the Love (2018) for SATB chorus. Performed by the Choir of King's College, Cambridge and Daniel Hyde, conductor. Publisher: BMG AM. An impeccably crafted work, the panel was impressed by this beautiful choral work that was both embedded in the choral tradition as well as having a modern edge. The sheer joy and exuberance of the work shone through with divine moments of absolute choral purity. Rhythmically interesting and challenging, this work is as assured as it is enjoyable.

Work of the Year - Dramatic

Overall comment: The panel appreciated the formation of this new category. Panel members were delighted to see the diversity of styles within the Dramatic category, with Australian artists exploring so many different ways to find new models and new forms of expression, from physical theatre through to wordless operas and jazz-inspired storytelling. The panel noted the importance of the impact of combining dramaturgy with music and narrative to ensure the dramatic flow of the work.

In a Booker Prize-like moment, the panel unanimously agreed to award this year's Award to this category's two outstanding nominations. The panel believed strongly that these two works are both equally worthy of first prize. They are extremely fine but different works that speak to different aspects of the artform, and both works clearly stand out in terms of dramaturgy, inventiveness and originality. The composers are both doing something very interesting with orchestration; sonically they are strong in terms of handling different timbres, one from a more classical framework and the other from a more experimental place, setting different parameters for telling their respective stories. They are a great testament to what musical theatre can achieve, and we can celebrate having two completely different works of such quality in the Australian musical landscape.

Joint Work of the Year: Dramatic winners
Cat Hope and Elliott Gyger.

Elliott Gyger & Pierce Wilcox: Oscar and Lucinda (2019) chamber opera in two acts (joint WINNER). Performed by: Sydney Chamber Opera and Jack Symonds, conductor. A sophisticated, moving and beautifully scored work, it is able to transverse a wide emotional landscape, showing great inventiveness, and with highly effective vocal and instrumental/orchestral writing. An impressive achievement on so many levels. Gyger's sound world is highly evocative, capturing the intensity, joy and struggles of the story's characters very well. A substantial and highly accomplished work.

Cat Hope: Speechless (2019) for four vocal soloists, choir and bass orchestra. Performed by Judith Dodsworth, Karina Utomo, Caitlin Cassidy, Sage Pbbbt (soloists), with Australian Bass Orchestra, Decibel New Music Ensemble and Aaron Wyatt, conductor. Speechless is a wordless opera with a graphic notation score generated from the 2014 Human Rights Commission Report, 'The Forgotten Children: National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention'. It is unflinchingly original on every level. Featuring the composer's inclusive and evocative use of voice types from divergent cultural traditions, this is a distinctive and unique work with a thematic urgency that stands on its terms musically and structurally. Powerful and moving, this work is both authentic and risk-taking.

Ekrem Eli Phoenix: Out of Chaos - a sonic composition for theatre/circus production. Performed by Gravity and Other Myths. The panel was captivated by the sheer virtuosity of this sonic composition and the composer's outstanding handling of music as drama. A wonderful, fresh and ambitious work that takes physical theatre and dramatic work to another sphere.

Luke Styles & Peter Goldsworthy: Ned Kelly (2017) chamber opera. Performed by Lost and Found Opera and Chris van Tuinen, conductor. Publisher: G Schirmer Australia. The panel was impressed with this well-crafted work from a mature voice in opera and music theatre. The panel also noted that the collaboration between composer Luke Styles and librettist Peter Goldsworthy marks a significant artistic pairing of striking Australian voices with vast individual experience and operatic pedigree. A thoughtful work that integrated folk songs of the day into a beautiful and effective harmonic language.

Work of the Year - Jazz

Overall comment: The panel was heartened by the range of musics that constitute jazz in Australia today, ranging from jazz song cycles to multi-media, cultural hybrid and more. The panel enjoyed the interesting and imaginative instrumental combinations and the wide range of cultural influences that resulted in a diverse range of creative ideas and a diverse range of ensembles across a wonderful spectrum of musics that people call jazz. The panel applauded the passion and conviction seen in many of the nominations received, and the way in which many composers were striving for new, interesting and unique ways of pushing the edge of jazz, taking risks and pushing the boundaries of music creation and performance.

Finalist-winner Linda May Han Oh's new work 'The Noise of Us'
as seen and heard at the virtual Awards.

It was clear to the panel that there isn't a right way to make jazz, play jazz, write jazz music; it is about putting together the best of your ideas and the creative tools in your own musical tool box and match that with the ability of the musicians, ensembles and bands that you are writing for. The panel also found the different kinds of relationship between composer and performers another interesting facet of jazz in Australia today. Panel members were pleased to highlight and reward not just excellence, but originality and boldness of vision.

Linda May Han Oh: Aventurine (2019) (WINNER). Performed by Linda May Han Oh, Greg Ward, Matt Mitchell, Ches Smith, Fung Chern Hwei, Sara Caswell, Benni von Gutzeit, Jeremy Harman, Invenio with Gian Slater, director. A work released in May 2019 and subsequently performed at the 2019 Melbourne Jazz Festival, the panel regarded this significant work from bassist and composer, Linda May Han Oh, as a highlight within a talented field. The music is demanding and intricately crafted, creating an amazing sound world full of beautiful and unexpected moments within a framework of both composed and improvised passages. The culmination of music created and developed over a number of years that blends references as diverse as classical counterpoint, Cuban rhythms, Chinese traditional folksongs and Charlie Parker, Aventurine is a pinnacle of what jazz can be in Australia today.

Josh Kelly: Displacement. Performed by Josh Kelly, Niran Dasika, Aviva Endean, Mary Rapp, Jacques Emery and Maria Moles. A result of winning the PBS Young Elder of Jazz Award and premiered at the 2019 Melbourne Jazz Festival. The panel found this ambitious work to be distinctive in its scoring, instrumental combinations, textures and the breadth of its over-arching narrative. Inspired by techniques found in French impressionism and created through the lens of his family's migration around the world, Josh Kelly's work uses harmonic tone clusters and blends of textures across multiple instruments to create a soundscape for feature soloists to improvise over. A consistently compelling work with a strong and experimental voice that strives for something new, something unique.

Adam Page: The Colours of Grief. Performed by the Adam Page Ensemble. The panel found this beautiful and evocative piece powerfully effective in both its intimacy and the ways in which the themes moved between tracks to create both individual pieces and then a cohesive whole. Texturally subtle and imaginative with beautiful timbres and harmonic framework that create this musical and emotional narrative.

Aaron Choulai: Umi No Uzu. Performed by Australian Art Orchestra, Aaron Choulai, Miyama McQueen-Tokita and Kojoe. The panel commented on Choulai's unique range of stylistic influences that result in a work that blends aspects of hip-hop, traditional Japanese court music and contemporary art music with an overarching jazz sensibility. An interesting musical structure with a collage of different musical traditions and multi media resulting in very different textures and cultural ideas. A thoroughly engaging, intriguing and vibrant work.

Work of the Year - Large Ensemble

Overall comment: The panel was impressed with the strong eclectic mix of styles and influences seen in the nominations to this category in a consistently strong and large field that featured both emerging and established composers. The breadth of the finalists was diverse in terms of style but very strong in terms of skill, compositional craft and artistic voice. A challenging and impressive range of Australian art music for large forces.

James Ledger joined in from Perth to accept his Work of the Year Award.

Kate Moore: Beatrice (2019) piano concerto. Performed by Vivian Choi, piano, Willoughby Symphony, and Fabian Russell, conductor. Publisher: Donemus Publishing BV. The panel was impressed with this courageous take on minimalism to form an utterly compelling and rewarding work. Informed by contemporary art music trends and a postmodern aesthetic, this work had the energy of the extended minimalism world combined with an attractive and expressive appeal. The work explores the depth and wealth of colour that the orchestra has to offer with the orchestra supporting the soloist to soar. An epic and rewarding journey.

Maria Grenfell: Flinders and Trim. Performed by the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, and Eivind Aadland, conductor. The panel found this to be a beautiful symphonic poem, technically accomplished with excellent orchestration, exquisite writing and well executed structurally. The many facets of Maria Grenfell's involvement with the TSO were brought together in this commission to write a large-scale work of artistic excellence, representative of the composer's connection to the TSO and of how this relationship uplifts the wider Tasmanian community. The orchestral palette is used in a striking and picturesque way, with large sweeping gestures that contrast with more intimate passages. A coming together of Grenfell's individual voice and compositional technique in beautiful and expressive idiomatic writing.

Harry Sdraulig: Icarus (2019) for solo piccolo and orchestra. Performed by Lloyd Hudson, Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, and Elena Schwarz, conductor. The panel was very taken with this piece by the emerging composer Harry Sdraulig. They were impressed by the composer's orchestral command of the work, his use of interesting musical language, his strong orchestral craft, the creation of imaginative textures with strong orchestral colours, and his demonstrated expertise in form and structure within a strong compositional voice. The dialogue between piccolo and orchestra navigates a world in which robust sound blocks are contrasted with delicacy and tenderness. Created as part of the TSO's Australian Composers' School, Harry Sdraulig's work brings to light a new voice in the Australian orchestral landscape.

James Ledger: Viola Concerto (2019) (WINNER). Performed by Brett Dean, West Australian Symphony Orchestra and Fabien Gabel, conductor. The panel was impressed with this highly sophisticated work with its innovative harmonic language and beautiful synergy between all its elements. The panel noted its interesting mixture of electronics with the solo viola and the orchestra, the composer's ability to manage large-scale form and all the structures innate in that, and found the work to be intriguing and original with a striking ending. The work explored the multiple complex sonorities of the viola supported by the orchestration and integration of the synthesiser within the orchestra, creating a compelling mix of elements that placed high demand on the soloist and resulting in an innovative work of striking nature and fresh sound world.

Work of the Year - Chamber Music

Overall comment: The panel was pleased to see the diversity of composers represented in this category at different stages of their careers creating highly professional and creative chamber music in a diverse range of styles. The panel was excited to see emerging composers in this category as well as seeing some established composers writing in new or different styles. A wonderful reflection on art music in Australia today.

Chris Dench delivered a short but poignant acceptance
speech with a message in his T-shirt.

Natasha Anderson: Cleave. Performed by Ensemble Offspring, International Contemporary Ensemble and Ensemble Adapter. A work that interrogates pitch and timbre, this work of spatialised electronics, processed samples and live instruments is unique in its sound world. It is structurally strong and ambitious, using a refined investigation of limited material to create a beautiful language and distinctive sound world. An important work of scale for this composer, stunning in harmonic sophistication and well thought through in its timbral and electroacoustic qualities. Both bold and full of restraint, Cleave is a meditative experience of great beauty.

Chris Dench: passing bells: day (2004-2020) for piano (WINNER). Performed by Alex Raineri. The panel applauded the beautiful and unique language of this companion piece to Chris Dench's 2004 composition, passing bells: night. Despite its complex language, it is a romantic work that displays all the qualities of high-level chamber music practice; an extraordinary contribution to the repertoire.
Rigorously constructed, virtuosic and both mathematically and aurally beautiful, the panel found this work to be a very fine and strong contribution to the contemporary solo piano repertoire.

Brett Dean: String Quartet no. 3: Hidden Agendas (2019) Performed by Doric String Quartet. Publisher: Hal Leonard/Boosey & Hawkes Group. The panel found this compelling work to be extraordinarily well executed, full of arresting gestures, significant in scope and exceptionally well crafted. In its variety of moods, sounds, techniques and the powerful yet non-dogmatic relevance of its intention, Brett Dean's Hidden Agendas has a well-deserved place in the canon of string quartet repertoire.

John Pax: Where The Quiet Rests. Performed by WasteLAnd. The panel found this exemplary work for clarinet, trombone, tuba, violin, viola, violoncello, and 12 channel electronics to be music of our time. Very beautiful and peaceful but also with a sense of anxiety, a sense of poignancy, so capturing the duality of our world. The spatial and electroacoustic format shows strong structural coherence and the composer's command of the pitch and harmonic language is highly commended. A work that is spacious with subtle development, clarity and elegance, Where the Quiet Rests has just the right elements, and not a note too many. Innovative new music presented in a very beautiful, well-crafted and assured way.

Work of the Year- Electroacoustic/Sound Art

Overall comment: The panel was delighted by the huge range and diversity of approaches to electroacoustic music. In particular, large scale inter-media experiences were represented strongly. Panel members were impressed with the technical and intellectual complexity of the work and also the emotional resonance that shone through. It was also very positive to see strong female representation within the group of nominations.

An expert from Robin Fox & Erkki Veltheim finalist work Diaspora, as part of the ceremony.

Amanda Cole: Coronal Mass. Performed by 12.1 surround sound speaker. Lead artist Michaela Gleave, programmer Warren Armstrong, sound engineer Bob Scott and scientists Martin Connors and Ian Schofield. The panel was impressed with the compelling sound world of this work, an exceptional multi-speaker gallery installation that was presented at Dark Mofo 2019 in Hobart, featuring slow changing frequencies over time. Technically accomplished, a beautiful, mesmerising and powerful work, superb in its realisation.

Robin Fox and Erkki Veltheim: Diaspora. In a Chamber Made production, performed by Robin Fox, Erkki Veltheim, Madeleine Flynn, Georgie Darvidis, Tamara Saulwick (co-direction/dramaturgy) and Nick Roux (video artist). Another premiere at the Substation for the 2019 Melbourne International Arts Festival. The panel found this outstanding work to be refreshing, engaging and profoundly moving. A conceptually ambitious and daring project, inspired by the concepts found in the first chapter of Australian author Greg Egan's legendary science-fiction masterpiece of the same name, the work shows strong technical ideas and sonic experimentation. A visually and aurally stunning work due to enormous feats of ingenuity.

Matthias Schack-Arnott: Everywhen (WINNER). Performed by Matthias Schack-Arnott. Premiered at the Substation for the 2019 Melbourne International Arts Festival, the panel found this work to be stunning in conception and in execution; visually and sonically very subtle, with a beautiful integration between instruments and electronics. The sound world was rich, tantalising and inviting, technically highly accomplished, with an extraordinary level of virtuosity overlaying the work's remarkable concept. A remarkable and compelling creative work on every level; it speaks to what is possible in this world.

Fiona Hill: Imago (2018) for flute, soprano and electronics. Performed by Lamorna Nightingale, Jane Sheldon and Fiona Hill. Premiered at the 2019 Tilde Music Festival in Melbourne, this work impressed the panel for both its emotional impact and connection arising from the story that it is telling, and the visually stunning and texturally rich nature of the work. The incorporation of field recordings, flute, voice and live electronics strongly supported the narrative text and had a very strong impact.

Performance of the Year - Jazz/Improvised Music

Overall comment: The 2020 Awards brought a competitive field of high calibre artists. The panel was excited by the outstanding performances, production values and improvisatory skills seen in the performances of these quality works.
The finalists presented performances from across the jazz genre, each displaying a unique conceptual approach to an exceptional standard. However, the judges were unanimous. The winner's ambitious project exemplified excellence, unifying diverse artists with distinctly individual voices in an impressive large scale, cross-cultural work, showcasing the very best of what can only be produced in Australia.

Sandy Evans accepted the new Performance of the Year: Jazz/Improvised Award
on behalf of the Bridge of Dreams team.

Performance by the Australian Art Orchestra of The Plains by Peter Knight. The title of both the individual work by Peter Knight and the overall concert performance featuring works by Julia Reidy and Peter Knight, The Plains was well-regarded by the panel as a beautifully scored, beautifully presented and well-crafted concert performance. Panel members commented on the unique ground that the Australian Art Orchestra continues to build under the artistic direction of Peter Knight; the colouring, textural layering and distinctive approach that allows individual musicians to have their own subtle lines but who collectively create a work of unique quality and, in this case, a remarkable performance at the 2019 JazzFest Berlin.

Performance by Joseph Franklin of 'Amen' by Joseph Franklin. The panel was impressed with this modern, complex and impressive work beautifully performed in this 2019 recording. It creates an effective bridge from jazz idioms to new and innovative musical language that includes interacting with improvising music. A wonderful concept with excellent writing that gives strong consideration to the players involved, allowing a responsiveness and depth of performance that is of undisputed quality.

Performance by the Phil Slater Quintet of The Cordeaux Mirror by Phil Slater. The panel was impressed by this unique and essentially stunning performance of Phil Slater's work, noting the arc of the composition and solos to be so beautifully shaped and realised. The depth in the writing was well presented in the masterful playing of this work. Performed for SIMA's Sound Lounge at Sydney's Seymour Centre, this performance serves as a reminder of the exceptionally high standard of work presented outside the context of a festival program in Australia. One of the leading ensembles and performances in the unique landscape of Australian jazz improvised music.

Performance by Sandy Evans, Shubha Mudgal, Aneesh Pradhan and Sirens Big Band, led by Jessica Dunn (bass) and Zela Margossian (piano) (WINNER). of Bridge of Dreams by Sandy Evans, Shubha Mudgal and Aneesh Pradhan. The panel applauded this collaborative work that respectfully and sensitively synthesised diverse Eastern and Western music aesthetics, sonorities and rhythms, resulting in a strong and compelling work. Panel members noted that this work seemed to encapsulate a substantial moment in the career of Sandy Evans, bringing together her unique style of writing, her long study of Indian music, and her deep connection with her creative collaborators. Virtuosic performances from the three composer/performers were beautifully integrated with the full big band and a range of smaller ensembles. It was a huge project that proved to be an outstanding performance in a truly special concert experience at the City Recital Hall as part of the 2019 Sydney Festival.

Performance of the Year - Notated Composition

Overall comment: The panel was impressed with the breadth of the works nominated in this category, the many outstanding performances, and the imagination and ability of the performers to carry musical narratives across works of such different scale, from solos to orchestral music and chamber opera. The panel found the artistic scope of the performers and the range of pieces both exciting and moving, and noted a fascinating variety in the notated scores themselves, from more conventional to visual and experimental notation. Notated composition is now such a broad category. The panel was impressed by the interactions between performer and composer, beautifully played out in a number of the nominations. The finalists in this category brought these works to life with a very deep understanding, dedication and artistry.

Dual winner at 2020 Art Music Awards, Louise Devenish.

Performance by the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and Douglas Boyd, conductor of Weave by Cathy Milliken. The panel found this performance to be incredibly involving, admiring the virtuosic writing for and exceptionally fine playing from several of the ASO's principal players within the beautifully handled weaving quality of the work. Well-paced, delicate, subtle, this performance was a most expressive interpretation of this new work by Cathy Milliken where instrumental colours come to the fore and were woven in a constant flow of motion between foreground and background. The panel noted the close relationship between orchestra and composer through Milliken's residency as the ASO's Composer in Association and felt that Milliken had a good understanding of the orchestra and a connection with the players that resulted in not just a fine professional performance of high artistry, but also a heightened and beautiful responsiveness from the orchestral players.

Performance by Louise Devenish of the program 'Sheets of Sound', with music by Annie Hui-Hsin Hsieh, Matthias Schack-Arnott, Louise Devenish and Stuart James (WINNER). Presented by Tura New Music and Perth Institute of Contemporary Art PICA. The panel was impressed with this enthralling performance from percussionist Louise Devenish in her latest solo project that explores the intersection between sound, performance and installation. The demands placed on the performer, the mastery and skill required, her interaction with all the materials involved and the colours brought out throughout, made this an extraordinary performance. With high-octane focus, artistry and vision, Devenish delivered a highly engaging and generous performance that drew and mesmerised the audience into its magical sound world.

Performance by the Sydney Chamber Opera and Jack Symonds, conductor of Oscar and Lucinda by Elliott Gyger & Pierce Wilcox. The panel found this realisation of Elliott Gyger's highly demanding new work to be of the highest quality, sensitively bringing the composition to life across a broad emotional landscape. This was a moving performance that brought so much character and drama to the premiere performances through the interpretation of the roles, the very fine solos, ensemble work and orchestral playing. There was clearly a rigorous musical preparation that led to the immense skill, rich vocal colour and convincing drama of this very fine performance.

Performamce by Zubin Kanga of Rhythm City by Tristan Coelho. The panel found Zubin Kanga's performance of this work for piano, video sampler and live electronics to be completely captivating, a virtuosic, precisely timed and expressive. The panel noted the close collaborative relationship between the performer and composer in this demanding work, with the performer bringing out the composer's intent with a high level of musical and technical accuracy. Zubin Kanga not only handled the technical challenges of the piece with great skill, but brought to it an artistic interpretation and energy that resulted in a performance of great nuance, sensitivity, drama, delicacy and grace. It is hard to think of anyone who could have performed this work better.

Award for Excellence in Music Education

Overall comment: The panel found this to be an outstanding and impressive group of nominations to this category, and were impressed with the variety and the high level of innovation in the ways artists and organisations chose to engage with students and emerging artists. Many of the projects involved a high level of participation that actively engaged children and young people in creating, listening to and learning about Australian music. A number of nominations had an emphasis on improvisation as well scored composition. The panel was impressed with the quality seen around the country in this category.

Guwanbal Gurruwiwi and Netanela Mizrahi (The Djari Project). Gurruwiwi's speech,
recorded on Larrakia Land, shared the Award with all the children and musicians
the two artists have worked with.

Australian Art Orchestra for its Creative Music Intensive. The panel was impressed with the commitment by the Australian Art Orchestra to developing its educational and mentoring programs, which in 2019 included the Creative Music Intensive held in remote Tasmania, and associated activities. These initiatives provide extraordinary experiences for young musicians, seeding new friendships, new collaborative possibilities and new ideas, as well as nourishing the next generation of improvisers. An impressive contribution to music education in this area of collaborative music making, with connections between western, Indigenous, and Korean approaches to creative and improvised music.

Netanela Mizrahi and Guwanbal Gurruwiwi for the Djari Project (WINNER). The Djari Project, a compositional collaboration between Guwanbal Gurruwiwi and Netanela Mizrahi, producing new works that draw on the traditional knowledge and songlines from the Galpu community of Galiwinku/Elcho Island (NT), brought together the composers, musicians and music educators into its school program throughout the Northern Territory in 2019. The panel paid tribute to the ethos of this project in using art music to share stories, facilitate depth of understanding and relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous composers and young people through the teaching of Gurruwiwi and Mizrahi's Love and Dreaming song cycle. The panel was also impressed with how the project drew on language - and in particular the language of Galpu, Old Norse, Hebrew and English, fusing Mizrahi's background in Classical Western and Middle Eastern music with Gurruwiwi's traditional knowledge - and how it recognised the complex educational disadvantage in many remote and regional schools, and designed the program to address this. A profound music education project on many levels, and well deserving of the Award for Excellence in Music Education.

Speak Percussion for Sounds Unheard Education Program. The panel applauded the high level of originality in this program that provides young musicians with vital opportunities to embrace their creativity, expand their musical knowledge and learn from the world's most innovative musical thinkers. The panel was impressed with the range of activities and topics developed by Speak Percussion for the Sounds Unheard Education program through its workshops, masterclasses, school holiday intensives, artist internships and the regional arts program, with topics including composition, performance practice, improvisation, and instrument design, dramaturgy, sound design, and performance aesthetics (lighting and set design).

Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra for the Australian Composers' School. The Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra's Australian Composers' School, a flagship training program for Australian emerging composers, was highly regarded by the panel for its unique nature and the support that it provides to four emerging composers. The quality and depth of the program in 2019 was very strong, featuring interesting and diverse artists. It is also very valuable in terms of what it brings to Australian music from an education perspective. Composers graduating from this program do so with professionally developed works after this important program of mentoring in creating and arranging new Australian work.

Award for Excellence in a Regional Area

Overall comment: Panel members were delighted to see the rich and diverse offerings that interpreted Australian art music development in communities in regional Australia. The panel found all nominations to this category incredibly inspiring and of very high quality. All of them made a valuable contribution to Australian music and their community in regional Australia. The involvement of the people of the communities as creators as well as participants in these works was a particularly lovely aspect of the work presented to this category, demonstrating such positive impact and longevity. Panel members were heartened by the high quality of these projects and the ways in which they were enriching and adding cultural value to and within communities.

Gillian Howell and Tura's Tos Mahoney accepted their Award, acknowledging
all collaborators in the Fitzroy Valley.

Gillian Howell and Tura New Music for the Fitzroy Valley New Music Project (WINNER). The 2019 Fitzroy Valley New Music Project, facilitated by internationally renowned music educator/composer/performer Gillian Howell as part of Tura New Music's Regional Residency program, was based in Fitzroy Crossing, Western Kimberley, WA, and was the third and final year in a series of residencies that built collaborative foundations and relationships, developing music projects through the exchange of ideas: mapping interests; exploring possibilities, assessing skills and developing creative languages for shared art-making. Participants learnt to explore music-making together and devised and performed their own compositions. The panel was particularly impressed with the way that the impact of this project can be seen in the amplification of the community's resources for music engagement - music, skills and initiatives. These resources ideally extend well beyond the residency's timeframes, becoming locally owned and embedded in own language. The panel commented on the originality of the compositions, the quality of music-making from the young people involved, the social impact for the community, and the appreciation and importance of language. This project radiated musical and community sunshine.

Netanela Mizrahi and Guwanbal Gurruwiwi for the Djari Project. This compositional collaboration between Guwanbal Gurruwiwi and Netanela Mizrahi draws on the traditional knowledge and songlines from the Galpu community of Galiwinku/Elcho Island (NT) as well as featuring new works in Galpu, Old Norse, Hebrew and English for chamber ensemble and choir, fusing Mizrahi's background in Classical Western and Middle Eastern music, with Gurruwiwi's traditional knowledge. Djari is the sacred Galpu rainbow that surrounds the physical body in birth and death. The symbol of a sacred, nurturing rainbow reflects the project's values of Reconciliation. The panel was impressed with how the Djari Project music showcases Mizrahi's and Gurruwiwi's compositions as well as how the performances and remote outreach projects reflect the cultural needs and aesthetics of the regional communities from which they have grown, bringing together traditional Indigenous songs and values with classical Western traditions, creating a body of work that is accessible to all. Composing specifically for Australian Youth Choirs, this project takes pride in representing Indigenous languages in choral and art music in schools. The panel also noted how the project welcomes people of all ages and abilities from the communities in which they perform. A fine example of community music-making in its truest sense, using the music to share stories, facilitate depth of understanding and relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous composers and young people, with strong community impact.

Bangalow Music Festival for the 2019 festival. The panel applauded the initiative of the Southern Cross Soloists in presenting this regional music festival in Northern New South Wales over the last 19 years, and its commitment to featuring a high percentage of Australian art music in its repertoire across the main stage concerts and other community and school events. Performances of high quality, education outcomes, meaningful community outreach and community connection, and the valuing of creativity, are an integral part of this highly regarded annual festival program.

Rae Howell for Bee-Sharp Honeybee. Rae Howell's immersive music and multimedia journey through the secret life of bees was premiered at the Nati Frinj Biennale in Natimuk, Western Victoria in November 2019, a culmination of many years of dedicated research and compositional development as well as a highpoint in her impressive career as a composer and performing artist. The panel was impressed by the quality of the composition and the outstanding level of work, research and care put into its creation. The panel also noted warmly how well the people of Natimuk embraced this work and embedded it within the community, as seen by a high degree of community participation, involvement and attendance, as well as how positively the people of the community responded to new ways of looking at concerns linked to the land and environment raised by this environmentally aware work.

Award for Excellence in Experimental Music

Overall comment. The panel found the nominations to this category to be of consistently high quality, making the assessment of nominations to be particularly challenging. It was good to see the range of nominations from both experienced and emerging artists. In some cases artists seemed to have confused works that are technically accomplished with experimental music. To that end the panel suggests that artists or organisations make sure they address in the impact statement the arguments for why the work or activity or event is experimental, that is, how it interrogates, extends or challenges standard artistic practice within the Australian repertoire. A number of the nominations this year really demonstrated this to a high degree.

Thank you messages by The Music Box Project. Larger view.

Gelareh Pour for Garden Quartet. Panel members were moved and captivated by this work that both stretches and crosses over traditions, culture and forms, becoming a beautiful melding of many traditions in a new experimental form.
Since arriving in Australia from Iran in 2012, Gelareh Pour's journey into experimental music has taken many forms, from collaborations with Doom metal bands, Yacht Rock, jazz, free improvisation and psychedelic rock, and in all of these she has pursued notions of connectedness. Garden Quartet is a cohesive realisation of this journey. With the Garden Quartet album, Gelareh Pour has created a new music that is a direct reflection of a modern multi-cultural society, combining modern Western instrumentation and song structure with Persian instruments and Farsi language creating something new and experimental beyond musical borders.

The Music Box Project for 'Shallow Listening' (WINNER) The panel commended the Music Box Project for its project 'Shallow Listening', which premiered at the 2019 Bendigo International Festival of Exploratory Music. This compelling concert experience interwove newly commissioned works by leading young composers Jasmin Wing-Yin Leung (QLD), Jaslyn Robertson (VIC), Elizabeth Jigalin (NSW) and Joseph Franklin (VIC) alongside the Australian premiere of Clearing the Air by Moya Henderson (45 years after its first performance). The panel described this work as fresh, young and unfashionably extravagant, and commended the artists for their cutting-edge spirit and collaborative nature that resulted in exploratory music that both challenges and engages. The panel commended this group's ability to interrogate and give new importance to the international achievement of Moya Henderson winning the Kranichsteiner Prize in Darmstadt in 1974, and then being able to pivot from that moment and create a new and cohesive artwork that also celebrates many of the current trends in contemporary practice and thinking, but with their own personal stamp. 'Shallow Listening' exemplifies The Music Box Project's ability to facilitate, curate and perform experimental music at the highest level.

Nat Grant for FEED. The panel found FEED to be thoroughly engaging in its experimental practice. In this work that consists of the composer as performer, centre-stage with percussion surrounding her and microphones picking up the sounds that are then fed through live processors and mixed with the live sounds simultaneously, the lines are blurred between the live performance and electroacoustic work in a way that is challenging, complex and persuasive. The composer describes her work as the physical and sonic manifestation of advocacy work that she has been doing for several years around providing and growing platforms for women and gender minority drummers and experimental and electronic musicians. The result is a transformative work of great presence.

Zubin Kanga for 2019 Performances of Ballast by Jon Rose. The panel was impressed with this semi-improvised, semi-notated work for piano, 3D sensors and live electronics, created with composer Jon Rose and composer-programmer Ben Carey. As the instigator, manager, co-creator and performer/improviser of the project, Zubin Kanga played a major role in creating this work of intense virtuosity, which is a major contribution to Australian experimental music. Subversive and incredibly accomplished, Ballast stretches the boundaries of experimental music - extending the practice of piano performance, improvisation, and the integration of new technologies and interdisciplinary art - and takes it to another level.

Luminary Awards: National

Note: there were no finalists announced for the Luminary Awards.

Overall comment: The new Luminary awards focus on a portfolio of practice drawn from the prior 3-5 years, representing sustained contribution to the field of Art Music. The process of arriving at a single recipient for each of Individual and Organisation, was difficult and speaks volumes to the commitment and calibre of Australia's art music community. The panel noted that artists and organisations are of varying levels of establishment and history were in contention for this year's awards and looks forward to seeing this impact of the category as it develops in the future.

Inaugural Luminary: Individual winner Chris Sainsbury
accepting his Award.

Chris Sainsbury for initiating and driving Ngarra-Burria: First Peoples Composers program (WINNER). The Ngarra-Burria composer mentoring program, begun in 2015 by Chris Sainsbury, and his Platform Paper Ngarra-burria: New Music and the Search for an Australian Sound have had a major impact on the classical and new music industry: a welcome and relevant Indigenous-led cultural shift and re-calibration of music practice, and not just pertaining to one-off collaborations with Indigenous musicians. Ngarra-burria means 'to listen, to sing' in the Dharug language of the Sydney area (Eora). As a composer descending from the Indigenous people of the region of Sydney and the Central Coast, and as a previous Head of Dept at Eora Centre (an Indigenous College in Sydney), Chris has noted the need and created a mechanism to support developing and unheard Australian Indigenous composers and to connect them to industry.

The panel is elated to award this inaugural Luminary Award based on a critical project whose impact is now truly being felt across the art music sector. The importance of community-led initiatives and of supporting our First Nations composers and musicians in this space cannot be overstated. Chris's work over the past five years has had a national impact in both training emerging First Nations composers but also in redefining their role and future within Australian art music. Truly Luminary in every sense of the word.


Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra for Australian Composers School, Australian Conducting Academy, and professional development opportunities for Australian musicians (WINNER). In the last five years, the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra (TSO) has not only served the State of Tasmania but offered several unique opportunities open to emerging Australian composers through the Australian Composer's School, and emerging Australian conductors through TSO's Australian Conducting Academy. The TSO also offers conducting workshops open to Australian women through a bequest from Louise Crossley.

CEO Caroline Sharpen accepted the Luminary Award
on behalf of the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra.

Additionally, the TSO has had a long relationship with developing young Australian musicians and has continued to offer professional development opportunities for Australian classical musicians by collaborating with the Australian Youth Orchestra (AYO) and the Australian National Academy of Music (ANAM). The panel noted the important national impact of these programs and the way the TSO has re-invented itself in recent years to provide wider skillsets to musicians at a time when breadth of portfolio is essential to an artist's available opportunities and on-going career.

Luminary Awards: State/Territory

Overall comment: The panel is heartened to see the shift in focus of these awards to shine a light on community leaders and the importance of community-led practice in Australia. As support and awareness for these new categories grow, the panel looks forward to the depth of applications deepening and homing in on what makes each of Australia's states and territories interesting, diverse, and luminary in their own way. All available states and territories Luminaries were awarded in this first year of this category, and the panel were impressed by each of these high-calibre recipients.

Australian Capital Territory: Canberra International Music Festival for their record-breaking 2019 event and ongoing reputation for high quality and innovative programming (WINNER). The Canberra International Music Festival has achieved a national reputation for presenting an art music program which is both highly innovative and of exceptional quality. It features concerts, lectures and masterclasses held in our national institutions and Canberra's iconic architectural spaces. Its growing reputation is reflected in the steady growth in audience numbers. The 25th anniversary festival in 2019 broke all box office and attendance records, featuring an unprecedented number of Indigenous Artists.

New South Wales: Joanna Drimatis for sustained contribution to the performance, programming and advocacy of Australian works, and string music education (WINNER). Joanna Drimatis is an indefatigable champion of Australian works, particularly string repertoire in various roles - as conductor, performer, educator, clinician, presenter, writer, commissioner, and programmer. Joanna has presented papers at several conferences between 2015-2019, all with a focus on championing Australian music and string pedagogy. Most recently at the 2019 Midwest Clinic, she examined the music of significant string educators and composers in Australia. The panel noted her core role in the NSW musical community and imperative position in the place where excellence begins, primary and secondary music education. Her role in bringing new purposeful Australian repertoire to the next generation of Australian musicians is to lauded.

South Australia: Ross McHenry for trailblazing global pathways through artistic practice for South Australian musicians (WINNER). Ross McHenry's work is highly respected by his musical peers as a highly motivated professional bandleader, and as an accomplished bass player and composer. Through his practice, Ross showcases pathways to participating in the international music space without having to leave South Australia, with a positive impact on many young people in jazz and related styles.

Northern Territory: David Wilfred & Daniel Wilfred for cultural leadership and sustained creative contributions in Australia and beyond (WINNER). One of the things that sets David and Daniel Wilfred apart from other Indigenous music leaders in Australia is that they live remotely (in Ngukurr NT), practise traditional culture and are cultural leaders in their own communities in Arnhem Land, as well as a music leaders in traditions and cultures outside of their home. David and Daniel sing in language and practise traditional culture and are two of the very few people who really bridge culture in the way they do. Their generosity in sharing his knowledge is incredible and has had a transformational effect on so many people they work with and teach. The panel noted the impact of bringing state-based practice, knowledge and art to a wider audience as an important component of trail-blazing in these awards. By creating new pathways for their practice to continue in a national context, they also build in roads for other practitioners to work with NT artists and communities.

Western Australia: Louise Devenish for her ongoing advocacy, commissioning and performance of new percussion music in Western Australia (WINNER). Louise Devenish has made major contributions to new Australian music through her percussion work in Western Australia. Her sustained advocacy and artistry is especially notable over the past five years: the dozens of solo works commissioned and performed (by Hope, Hullick, Moore, James, Hsieh, Shack-Arnott, Vickery, Skipworth, Davies, etc.), the ensembles she has established, including Intercurrent and Pinata Percussion, and the recent recordings she has made both as a soloist and with her ensembles Intercurrent and Decibel. Louise has also published a book on Australian percussion music in 2019 called Global Percussion Innovations: An Australian Perspective. Significantly, in 2019 Louise directed Gender Diversity in Music and Art, which was an extremely positive and community-building event. Louise's contributions to new Australian music in WA have covered a wide spectrum of activities that have supported and connected performers, composers, student musicians, and the wider community.

Victoria: Making Waves for breaking down perceived state barriers and connecting a new generation of Australian musicians (WINNER). Making Waves is a monthly series of curated playlists streaming one hour of high-quality, new, composed music. Founded in 2015 by Lisa Cheney and Peggy Polias, leading a revolving team of 2-5 composers and music lovers, Making Waves shines a spotlight on the music of Australian composers. Each featured composer is given a profile on the website which is shared via social media over one month, giving composers and performers wider exposure. Making Waves also seeks to re-balance the representation of the gender in the field.

Tasmania: Michael Kieran Harvey for supporting the Tasmanian new music community through teaching, performance and recording (WINNER). Michael Kieran Harvey has been committed and consistent in his multifaceted approach to contemporary music and support of the Tasmanian new music community. In addition to his teaching work, performance & recording of Australian repertoire, a commitment to local content in featured in his concerts, 2019 included world premiere performances of works by Tasmanian composers, Simon Reade, Don Kay, Simon Barber.

Queensland: Katie Noonan for The Glad Tomorrow and furthering the future of Queensland musicians (WINNER). Katie Noonan's passion for music has been evident through her many years in the recording industry as well as working as Queensland Music Festival's Artistic Director. During her tenure Katie worked on the festival's 2017 and 2019 programs, with revolutionary programming focusing on regional areas, indigenous groups and women. She is constantly championing its vitality and growth across our rural towns and ever-changing cities, helping the Queensland Music Festival continue its legacy of integrating community projects in over 100 regions across the state.

> Art Music Awards - more information and previous winners


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