The 2020 Freedman Classical Fellowship finalists have been announced with violinists Grace Clifford and Harry Ward, and cellists James Morley and Richard Narroway competing for the $21,000 cash prize.

Grace Clifford, Grace & Grandeur, ASO, Adelaide Symphony OrchestraGrace Clifford

The finalists would normally compete for the prestigious award – which boasts a starry list of past winners including violist Stefanie Farrands, clarinettist Aviva Endean, pianist Tamara-Anna Cislowska, didgeridoo player William Barton and recorder player Genevieve Lacey – in a deciding concert at the Sydney Opera House. This year, however, due to COVID-19 restrictions, the performances will take place without an audience, the young musicians competing in front of a panel of judges. The date and venue are yet to be confirmed.

“We are grateful for the commitment and vision of Kathy and Laurence Freedman of the Freedman Foundation who have not skipped a beat in backing Australia’s creative artists in this extraordinary year,” said Dr Richard Letts, Director of The Music Trust, manager of the Fellowships.

Harry Ward

This year’s judging panel includes Director of the Canberra International Music Festival Roland Peelman, percussionist and Artistic Director of Ensemble Offspring Claire Edwardes – herself a previous Freedman Classical Fellowship winner – and Senior Lecturer in Conducting and Opera Studies at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music Dr Stephen Mould.

The finalists are chosen for the Freedman Classical Fellowship – which is administered and produced by Sydney Improvised Music Association – by a panel of nine distinguished artists from around Australia, who nominate 16 instrumentalists under the age of 30 to submit video recordings of their work and a description of a career-building project which they will carry out with the support of the prize. The finalists are chosen from these 16 submissions.

James Morley

“My project reflects my belief in the importance of access to music education and arts programs for all children, and wishes to celebrate the enduring contribution and importance of some of Australia’s historic Schools of the Arts,” said Grace Clifford, who is currently studying at the New England Conservatory in Boston. The 22 year old’s project involves a performing tour and the commissioning and recording of a new work for solo violin by an Indigenous Australia composer. If funds remain, she will use them to cover travel costs to meet existing international performance engagements with orchestras whose COVID-19 experience has limited their ability to meet these costs.

“I have always been attracted to the idea of an artists’ collective,” said 24-year-old violinist Harry Ward of his project, which will ultimately take the form of a live video or album. “An incredibly stimulating environment where individuals are brought together for an artistic purpose, where the journey is as important as the result. As such, I do not envisage this collective as strictly symphony orchestra, a quartet or a chamber ensemble, perhaps something more fluid than that. An ensemble that constantly challenges the standard classical musician’s career, a place where improvising is held in high regard and commissions and the classics are of equal importance.”

For his project, 23-year-old cellist James Morley – who like Ward is currently studying at the Australian National Academy of Music – will create a new work in collaboration with his long-time associate, composer Johannes MacDonald, and work with a young Melbourne-based contemporary film-maker in association with Melbourne Gallery, Gertrude Contemporary.

Richard Narroway

“My goal is to put together a professional recording and national tour of ten works for cello and piano written by ten Australian composers, all inspired by Australia’s climate, natural environment, and cultural history,” said 29-year-old cellist Richard Narroway, who is a member of the faculty at the Melbourne Conservatorium. “The album would be steeped in Sculthorpe’s legacy of writing music that conveys a deeply personal and urgent investment in Australia’s climate and Indigenous history. As such, Sculthorpe’s own Djilile for cello and piano will be the first piece on the album, followed by nine works written by a diverse group of Australian composers still living today.”

This year’s finalists will be assisted by a mentor, recorder player and Chair of the Australian Music Centre Genevieve Lacey, to lift their project designs to even higher levels. The winner will be selected on the basis of the submitted materials, their proposal and their live performance.

“Four exceptional string players compete this year for the much-coveted Fellowship, generously offered by the Freedman Foundation,” said Roland Peelman. “An impressive field of candidates, many of whom are already forging successful international careers, could not be whittled down easily.”