The composer and founder of new music ensemble Kammerklang has taken home Fine Music 102.5’s $15,000 prize.

Sydney’s Fine Music 102.5 announced composer Cameron Lam as the winner of the 2018 Stefan Kruger Scholarship at the station’s Celebration of Fine Music last night at Mosman Art Gallery. Lam, who founded the Sydney new music ensemble Kammerklang, won a prize that includes $10,000 cash as well as a further $5,000 worth of recording and marketing support through Fine Music.

The annual Kruger Scholarship, which has run since 2014, was made possible through the bequest of Stefan Kruger and is designed to assist young outstanding individuals further their career in their chosen field of music. Past winners are jazz and blues singer-songwriter Frances Madden, violinist Rebecca Gill, recorder player Alicia Crossley and saxophonist Nick Russoniello.

Cameron LamPianist Jo Allan, composer Cameron Lam and mezzo-soprano Jenny Duck-Chong at Fine Music 102.5’s Celebration of Fine Music. Photo © Raymond Horsey

The Celebration of Fine Music, at which the award was announced, featured performances by Fine Music’s Artistic Patron, composer Elena Kats-Chernin, who played her Dance of the Paper Umbrellas, Eliza’s Aria and a new work (“So fresh I don’t even know it yet,” she quipped) provisionally titled Rondo. The 2017 Kruger Scholarship winner Frances Madden performed two of her songs, Practical Magic and The One Who Walks Me Home, while the evening was capped off with a performance of music by Suk and Smetana by the Streeton Trio, Fine Music’s 2017 Artists-in-Residence.

Lam was introduced at the ceremony by Fine Music’s Patron of Emerging Artists, conductor Toby Thatcher, who reinforced the importance of such scholarships for young and emerging musicians, drawing on his own experiences in Australia and the UK, before Mezzo-soprano Jenny Duck-Chong and pianist Jo Allen gave the world premiere of Lam’s I So Loved the Spring, which is being recorded for an EP by Kammerklang later this year.

The scholarship is a coup for the composer, whose concerto for wind symphony and contrabass clarinet, Yggdrasil: The World Tree, premiered at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music at the end of August.

“It’s incredibly humbling,” Lam told Limelight, referring to the performances at the Celebration of Fine Music. “Fine Music has relationships with some amazing, talented people. As the first non-performing Kruger Scholar, I’m looking forward to seeing what I can bring to the programme and the station, as a composer.”

Lam’s project for the Kruger Scholarship will involve “writing and recording a new album, a song cycle for Jenny Duck-Chong (Halcyon) and a string quartet called The Art of Disappearing.”

“The cycle is based on the poem of the same name by Queensland poet Sarah Holland-Batt and other poems from her first poetry book, Aria,” he said. “Interspersed between the eight songs will be four instrumental movements which will make up my second string quartet.”

How will this scholarship benefit Lam’s career moving forward? “Honing a craft requires time and focus, but also feedback mentoring,” he says. “This will be my second time writing for Jenny since Kammerklang Vox in 2010, and I am looking forward to Jenny’s advice and humour while I hone in on the female voice (which I’m reminded is not a baritone!).”

“Secondly, this song cycle is designed so it is modular – Fine Music can play a single song and it will make sense in isolation, likewise the four instrumental movements make up a string quartet, and the song cycle itself can be performed with or without the instrumental interludes,” Lam explains. “Looking at the project this way, I’m building a work that can have a life of its own in various contexts. The best way to benefit my career is to get my work out into the world in as many ways as possible.”