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David Keeffe : Associate Artist

Random Audio Sample: Stellar fancy (solo piano) by David Keeffe, from the CD 70 More Variations on "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star"

Photo of David Keeffe

Photo: Steven Sandner

At age six, David Keeffe (b.1956, London, England) met Benjamin Britten, and shook his hand. Perhaps it was inevitable that he would eventually become a composer too. Keeffe was born into a musical family in London but has called Melbourne home since 1997. He attended Dulwich College, an English Public School founded by Edward Alleyn, one of Shakespeare's leading men, and well-known for its music and drama, and then went to Trinity College of Music where he studied composition with John Tavener and horn with John Burden.

Keeffe's continued study at the University of York led to an interest in computers and their musical applications, including composition and notation. He was also for a while the conductor of a university operatic group, and the York Philharmonic Male Voice Choir, and was principal horn with the York Guildhall Orchestra, where he also performed the Second Horn Concerto by Richard Strauss.

In 1997 Keeffe took an opportunity to live and work in Australia with his family. From that point a stream of new works appeared, initially for brass, and especially for horn, and then for the other ensembles. Opportunities from community and educational groups increased his motivation, with workshops and performances from Oakleigh City Band, Maroondah Symphony Orchestra, Grainger Wind Symphony and Melbourne Youth Music's MYO and MYSB, all of whose support is gratefully acknowledged.

In 2006 Keeffe won the prize for The Eleventh Day a new slow march for brass band at the Melbourne International Festival of Brass, and was a finalist for the quick march with Emerald Hill. That inspired him to return to study and in 2010 completed his Master of Music in composition at the University of Melbourne, working primarily with Julian Yu. In 2018, Keeffe graduated with a PhD in composition at the University of Melbourne, having studied with Stuart Greenbaum and Brenton Broadstock.

In one of the earliest 'Live at the Convent' programs on 3MBS-FM (Melbourne), Keeffe's The Midnight Prince - a ballet for eight horns - was premiered live to air. Subsequently his Four Haiku for tenor and piano were broadcast in the same series. Recently, Keeffe has had works played by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, the Defence Force School of Music Band, Grainger Wind Symphony, the Guildhall School of Music Horn Choir, and the Bourbaki Ensemble. A highlight has been an informal performance of the horn octet, this time with over 40 players, including Barry Tuckwell, Ben Jacks and Jeff Nelsen. The Undone Years, a saxophone concerto commissioned by Melbourne saxophonist Jason Xanthoudakis, received premieres in Melbourne and Sydney, and was performed a further two times in Melbourne. Noisy Nora, a children's story for narrator and orchestra, premiered in 2012 by the Zelman Memorial Symphony Orchestra, and Against the Odds, a microsymphony, was recorded by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.

A continuing commitment to community music and a belief that new music has a strong place there has led to A Crimson Carousel for symphonic band (commissioned by the Boroondara Symphonic Band), and The Thousand Steps, commissioned by the Maroondah Symphony Orchestra for its 50th anniversary. Short Trips, an exploration of jazz changes in a non-jazz context, originally composed for trumpet and trombone, has had success in various adaptations, such as for flute and bassoon. Knights of Gallipoli for brass band is Keeffe's contribution to the 2015 ANZAC centenary and is aimed at all grades of player.

David Keeffe — current to April 2019

Studied with

John Tavener (1974 - 1976)

Julian Yu (2006 - 2010)

Stuart Greenbaum (2012 - 2018)

Brenton Broadstock


Selected Commissions

  Work Commission Details
Stellar fancy (solo piano) Composed in response to Julian Yu's call for variations on 'Twinkle, twinkle, little star'
Digital sheet music sample After the Fires : for bass clarinet and wind ensemble (2023) Commissioned by Jason Xanthoudakis.
110010 - a fanfare for a digital age : electronics (2022) This fanfare was commissioned by Professor Ian Pyle for the 50th anniversary of computer science at the University of York and was offered as a gift to the department.
A dance for where the ground is thickly shaded : symphonic wind band (2020) Commissioned by and dedicated to Boroondara Symphonic Band for its 40th Anniversary. The commission was funded by a grant to the band from the City of Boroondara, Victoria.
Digital sheet music sample After the Fires (bass clarinet with orchestra) (2020) Commissioned by Jason Xanthoudakis
St Kilda : Scenes from Far and Near (2019) Commissioned by the Maroondah Symphony Orchestra for its 2019 season.