APRA AMCOS and the Australian Music Centre have announced the finalists for the 2021 Art Music Awards, to be held streamed online on the 24 August. The award categories, as well as a handful of un-shortlisted prizes, recognise excellence in Australian music of various genres and sound art. The breadth of the nominees this year stands as a testament to the strength and resilience of Australia’s artists, in spite of the past year of cancellations and uncertainty in the industry due to COVID-19.

Art Music Awards

Finalists for the 2021 Art Music Awards: Carl Rosman, Hamed Sadeghi, Josephine Macken, Lyndon Davis, Mindy Meng Wang, Cyrus Meurant, Peggy Polias, Emily Granger, Loretta Palmeiro, Georgia Scott, Paul Cutlan, Clemence Williams, Jessica O’Donoghue, Reuben Lewis, Lisa Young, Tariro Mavondo, HiberNATION festival, Tricia King, Vanessa Perica, Ed Kuepper, Grischa Lichtenberger, Phonetic Orchestra, Holly Harrison. Photo supplied

The finalists for Work of the Year – Large Ensemble demonstrate this point. Holly Harrison’s Splinter for wind band was recorded by the San Jose State University in lieu of a physical premiere due to health restrictions; Yitzhak Yedid’s Kadosh Kadosh and Cursed premiered as part of a livestreamed performance by Canada’s Le Nouvel Ensemble Moderne; Cyrus Meurant’s When I stand before thee at the day’s end was premiered by the Canberra Symphony Orchestra the day before Australia first went into lockdown last year; and Cathy Milliken composed Piece 43 For Now during the lockdown, before it was premiered in a recording by Germany’s SWR Symphony Orchestra.

Work of the Year – Choral is dominated by female composers. New Zealand composer Clare Maclean’s Beannaicht An Long (Blest be the Boat) draws upon medieval chant in a similar style that previously helped her win the award for Vocal Music in 2012. Lisa Young’s Sacred Stepping Stones was composed for Gondwana National Choral School’s enormous 320-strong choir at the Festival of Summer Voices. (Young discussed the piece with Limelight just before its premiere). Alice Chance’s Until We Gather Again and Amanda Cole’s Singing in Tune with Nature were both recorded remotely by choirs online.

Finalists for Work of the Year – Jazz include Asteroid Ekosystem by the Alister Spence Trio and Ed Kuepper, All Who Travel With Us by Loretta Palmeiro and Mark Isaacs, Paul Cutlan’s Living, and Vanessa Perica’s Spaccanapoli, described as an homage to the historic street in Naples.

Three of the works nominated for Work of the Year – Dramatic were premiered by Sydney Chamber Opera: Peggy Polias’ Commute, Georgia Scott’s Her Dark Marauder, and Josephine Macken’s The Tent, all of which premiered via livestream as part of Breaking Glass in April 2020. Erik Griswold’s Dragon Ladies Don’t Weep, co-produced by Chamber Made and CultureLink Singapore, rounds out the category.

Finalists for Work of the Year – Chamber Music are Anne Cawrse’s A Room of Her Own performed by the Australian String Quartet; Kate Neal and Grischa Lichtenberger’s Canyon 1205 (originally composed for a stage show, but rewritten as a chamber piece for solo cello) performed by cellist Blair Harris; Gordon Kerry’s Clarinet Quintet, premiered by Omega Ensemble, and Hidden Thoughts II: Return to Sender by Katy Abbott, inspired by letters sent by Australians to asylum seekers in detention, performed by Flinders Quartet with Dimity Shepherd and Richard Piper.

Work of the Year – Electroacoustic/Sound Art saw a large number of submissions. Finalists include Mindy Meng Wang’s An Improvisation Through Time and Space 穿越时光的即兴; Closed Beginnings by Tariro Mavondo, Reuben Lewis, and Peter Knight; Jane Sheldon’s Fugue; and Amanda Cole’s Oracle Chamber.

Finalists for the first of the two performance categories, Performance of the Year – Jazz/Improvised Music include the previously nominated All Who Travel With Us by Loretta Palmiero and Mark Isaacs; the Phil Slater Quintet’s performance of The Golden Seam; Phonetic Orchestra’s Silent Towns; and Vazesh’s The Sacred Key, featuring Jeremy Rose, Hamed Sadeghi and Lloyd Swanton.

The Performance of the Year – Notated Composition shortlist includes Emily Granger’s performance of The Harp and the Moon by Ross Edwards; Peggy Polias’ Commute performed by Sydney Chamber Opera; clarinettist Carl Rosman’s performance of Subdue by Jakob Bragg; and Ensemble Offspring and Alex Pozniak’s collaboration En Masse, which premiered at the new Phoenix Central Park in Sydney.

Finalists for the Award for Excellence in Music Education include Australian Art Orchestra for Creative Music Intensive 2020; Moorambilla Voices for Moorambilla Magic Modules; Music Viva for its Musica Viva Schools Online program; and Speak Percussion for the Sounds Unheard Education Program.

The final nominee category, Award for Excellence in Experimental Music, features Decibel New Music Ensemble’s  for the 21 two-minute works it commissioned for its 2 Minutes from Home project; HiberNATION for its live-streamed festival of experimental works; Keyna Wilkins for developing numerous works throughout the year, including the release of three albums; and Listening in the Wild, a sound art project by Leah Barclay, Lyndon Davis and Tricia King.

The Luminary awards, which recognise sustained contributions by individuals and organisations, and The Richard Gill Award for Distinguished Services to Australian Music, for which there are no finalists, will also be awarded at the ceremony.


The Art Music Awards 2021 will be presented online 24 August.

More information about the awards and nominees can be found here.