APRA AMCOS and the Australian Music Centre have announced the finalists for the 10th Art Music Awards – an annual event celebrating achievements in the fields of composition, performance, education and presentation of Australian art music. Due to the impact of COVID-19, this year’s presentation will go digital, streaming online as a virtual event on September 8.

Oscar and Lucinda, Sydney Chamber Opera, CarriageworksOscar and Lucinda, Sydney Chamber Opera. Photo © Zan Wimberley

Those on the list for the 2020 Awards range far and wide across the country as well as across the generations with individual nods to composers Amanda Cole, Julian Day, Brett Dean, Ross Edwards, Maria Grenfell, Guwanbal Gurruwiwi, Zubin Kanga, James Ledger, Cathy Milliken and Kate Moore and Paul Stanhope, and collective nominations including Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, Bangalow Music Festival, Speak Percussion, Sydney Chamber Opera, and the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra.

This year’s Awards categories have been revised, reworked and sometimes renamed, and although the deadline for entries was just preceded by states going into lockdown, a simplified process resulted in a record 278 nominations across 13 national categories.

Reflecting regional diversity in all categories, this year’s shortlisted compositions for the Work of the Year: Large Ensemble (previously Orchestral Work of the Year) show Tasmania punching above its weight with Maria Grenfell’s Flinders and Trim (a sumptuous 18-minute tone poem inspired by explorer Matthew Flinders and his cat Trim) and Harry Sdraulig’s Icarus (a quirky concertino-style work for piccolo and orchestra) both Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra premieres. Meanwhile, James Ledger’s substantial Viola Concerto – as performed by Brett Dean – was written for the West Australian Symphony Orchestra, and Kate Moore’s piano concerto Beatrice was commissioned by a community orchestra, the Willoughby Symphony Orchestra, based on Sydney’s North Shore.

Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra and conductor Elena Schwarz. Photo © Alastair Betts

The Work of the Year: Choral category (split off from last year’s Vocal/Choral Work of the Year) is equally diverse ranging from Julian Day’s A Civic Space written for an ensemble of community musicians from the Barossa, to Ross Edwards’s Singing the Love, which was premiered on a national tour by the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge. Gordon Hamilton’s Requiem-Recomposed was premiered by Brisbane-based The Australian Voices and Sydney’s Omega Ensemble, while Paul Stanhope and Steven Hawke’s I am Martuwarra, was premiered by five youth choirs from across the country as part of the 2019 Gondwana World Choral Festival.

Dividing up Vocal/Choral gives opera more room to shine in the new Work of the Year: Dramatic category. The four nominations include more ‘conventional’ operatic offerings like Luke Styles and Peter Goldsworthy’s Ned Kelly (staged by Perth-based new music pioneers Lost and Found Opera) and Elliott Gyger and Pierce Wilcox’s Oscar and Lucinda (based on the Peter Carey book and premiered by Sydney Chamber Opera). Less traditional offerings include Cat Hope’s wordless “animated notation opera” Speechless, the composer’s personal response to the 2014 Human Rights Commission report into Children in Immigration Detention and a Perth Festival premiere, and Ekrem Eli Phoenix’s sonic composition for theatre/circus production, Out Of Chaos, which was premiered by Adelaide-based circus company Gravity & Other Myths.

Gillian Howell and Tura New Music, nominated for Regional Excellence

Nominations for Work of the Year: Chamber Music (essentially an expanded version of last year’s Instrumental Work of the Year) include Natasha Anderson’s experimental work Cleave for 12 players (the maximum eligible for a work in this category) written for Ensemble Offspring, Chris Dench’s large-scale solo piano work passing bells: day as premiered by Alex Raineri, Brett Dean’s String Quartet No. 3 “Hidden Agendas”, toured across Australia by the British Doric String Quartet and Musica Viva, and John Pax’s eclectically scored Where The Quiet Rests for clarinet, trombone, tuba, violin, viola, cello, and 12-channel electronics.

A new category this year – Work of the Year: Electroacoustic/Sound Art – recognises an increase of compositional activity involving electronics and new technology. The four works nominated come from Amanda Cole (Coronal Mass, ‘an electrically-charged wave of sound transcribing the patterns of solar wind and the Aurora Australis,’ which premiered at last year’s Dark Mofo), Robin Fox and Erkki Veltheim (Diaspora, inspired by Greg Egan’s eponymous science fiction novel), Fiona Hill (Imago, for flute, soprano and electronics and performed by Hill with Lamorna Nightingale and Jane Sheldon) and Matthias Schack-Arnott (Everywhen, an innovative solo-percussion piece described as “a whirlpool of floating sounds forming a percussive swarm of gongs and chimes, while concentric circles of organic matter accumulate below” that premiered at last Year’s Melbourne Festival).

The Music Box Project, nominated for Experimental Music Excellence

Performance of the Year: Notated Composition nominations go to the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra’s performance of Cathy Milliken’s Weave, percussionist Louise Devenish’s Sheets of Sound program, Sydney Chamber Opera’s Oscar and Lucinda, and Zubin Kanga’s performance of Tristan Coelho’s Rhythm City.

Finalists for the Award for Excellence in Music Education include the Australian Art Orchestra’s Creative Music Intensive residency program in Tasmania, Speak Percussion’s Sounds Unheard education program, Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra’s Australian Composers’ School, and Netanela Mizrahi and Guwanbal Gurruwiwi’s the Djari Project, which draws on the traditional knowledge and songlines from the Galpu community of Galiwinku/Elcho Island in the Northern Territory.

The Excellence in Regional Area shortlist includes The Djari Project, Bangalow Music Festival, Gillian Howell and Tura New Music’s Fitzroy Valley New Music Project, and Rae Howell’s Bee-Sharp Honeybee, while the Excellence in Experimental Music finalists are Persian-Australian artist Gelareh Pour for her Garden Quartet project, The Music Box Project for Shallow Listening, Nat Grant’s advocacy and performance project FEED, and Zubin Kanga for his performances of Jon Rose’s Ballast, a work that mixed the experimental virtuoso’s keyboard skill with elements of absurdist theatre.

Yet to be announced, the Richard Gill Award for Distinguished Services to Australian Music will also be presented.

The 2020 Art Music Awards will be presented on Tuesday September 8 at 7pm AEST and will be streamed live on YouTube

The full list of Nominations is as follows:

Work of the Year: Large Ensemble

Kate Moore
Vivian Choi, piano, Willoughby Symphony, and Fabian Russell, conductor Donemus Publishing BV

Flinders and Trim
Maria Grenfell
Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, and Eivind Aadland, conductor

Harry Sdraulig
Lloyd Hudson, Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, and Elena Schwarz, conductor

Viola Concerto
James Ledger
Brett Dean, West Australian Symphony Orchestra and Fabien Gabel, conductor

Work of the Year: Chamber Music

Natasha Anderson
Ensemble Offspring, International Contemporary Ensemble and Ensemble Adapter

passing bells: day
Chris Dench
Alex Raineri

String Quartet No 3: Hidden Agendas
Brett Dean
Doric String Quartet
Hal Leonard/Boosey & Hawkes Group

Where The Quiet Rests
John Pax

Work of the Year: Choral

A Civic Space
Julian Day
Musicians from the Barossa region

I am Martuwarra
Paul Stanhope, text by Steve Hawke
Gondwana Choirs, Luminescence Chamber Singers, Valla Voices, Hunter Singers, and Resonance and Lyn Williams, conductor

Gordon Hamilton
Omega Ensemble and The Australian Voices and Gordon Hamilton, conductor

Singing the Love
Ross Edwards
Choir of King’s College, Cambridge and Daniel Hyde, conductor BMG AM

Work of the Year: Dramatic

Ned Kelly
Luke Styles, librettist Peter Goldsworthy
Lost and Found Opera and Chris van Tuinen, conductor G Schirmer Australia

Oscar and Lucinda
Elliott Gyger, librettist Pierce Wilcox
Sydney Chamber Opera and Jack Symonds, conductor

Out of Chaos
Ekrem Eli Phoenix Gravity and Other Myths

Cat Hope
Judith Dodsworth, Karina Utomo, Tara Tiba, Sage Pbbbt (soloists), with Australian Bass Orchestra, Decibel New Music Ensemble and Aaron Wyatt, conductor

Work of the Year: Electroacoustic/Sound Art

Coronal Mass
Amanda Cole

Robin Fox and Erkki Veltheim
Robin Fox, Erkki Veltheim, Madeleine Flynn and Georgie Darvidis

Matthias Schack-Arnott
Matthias Schack-Arnott

Fiona Hill
Lamorna Nightingale, Jane Sheldon and Fiona Hill

Work of the Year: Jazz

Linda May Han Oh
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

Josh Kelly
Josh Kelly, Niran Dasika, Aviva Endean, Mary Rapp, Jacques Emery and Maria Moles

The Colours of Grief
Adam Page
The Adam Page Ensemble

Umi No Uzu
Aaron Choulai
Australian Art Orchestra, Aaron Choulai, Miyama McQueen-Tokita and Kojoe

Performance of the Year: Notated Composition

Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and Douglas Boyd, conductor
Cathy Milliken

Louise Devenish
Sheets of Sound’
Annie Hui-Hsin Hsieh, Matthias Schack-Arnott, Louise Devenish and Stuart James

 Sydney Chamber Opera and Jack Symonds, conductor
Oscar and Lucinda
Elliott Gyger, librettist Pierce Wilcox

 Zubin Kanga
Rhythm City
Tristan Coelho

Performance of the Year: Jazz/Improvised Music

Australian Art Orchestra
The Plains
Peter Knight

 Joseph Franklin
Joseph Franklin

Phil Slater Quintet
The Cordeaux Mirror
Phil Slater

 Sandy Evans, Shubha Mudgal, Aneesh Pradhan and Sirens Big Band
Bridge of Dreams
Sandy Evans, Shubha Mudgal and Aneesh Pradhanvwith lead artist Michaela Gleave, programmer Warren Armstrong, sound engineer Bob Scott and scientists Martin Connors and Ian Schofield

Award for Excellence in Music Education

Australian Art Orchestra for its Creative Music Intensive

Netanela Mizrahi and Guwanbal Gurruwiwi for the Djari Project

Speak Percussion for Sounds Unheard Education Program

Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra for the Australian Composers’ School

Award for Excellence in a Regional Area

 Bangalow Music Festival for its 2019 festival

Gillian Howell and Tura New Music for the Fitzroy Valley New Music Project

Netanela Mizrahi and Guwanbal Gurruwiwi for the Djari Project

Rae Howell for Bee-Sharp Honeybee

Award for Excellence in Experimental Music

 Gelareh Pour for Garden Quartet

The Music Box Project for Shallow Listening

Nat Grant for FEED

Zubin Kanga for 2019 Performances of Ballast by Jon Rose