Perth-based composer Lachlan Skipworth has been awarded the 2017 Albert H Maggs Composition Award for his work Spiritus, which was premiered by the West Australian Symphony Orchestra (with whom Skipworth is Composer in Residence) in March this year. The award includes a $7,000 commission as well as a $3,000 performance subsidy.

Lachlan SkipworthLachlan Skipworth. Photo © Nik Babic

“This is one of the most exciting awards in Australia currently, as the commission prize means you can dream up any new work that you would like to write,” Skipworth told Limelight. “I’ve been hoping to write a work for the “Pierrot” sextet formation – a fairly standard ensemble for new music – for some time. This award gives me just that opportunity, and I’ll be working with Melbourne’s Syzygy Ensemble and an extended line-up of my own trio Intercurrent in Perth toward a premiere in 2018.”

The award is named for bookmaker Albert H. Maggs of Toorak in Victoria, who presented the University of Melbourne with a sum of money for the purpose of founding the award in 1966. It was first awarded to Nigel Butterley in 1967 and has since been won by composers such as Larry Sitsky, Colin Brumby, Ann Carr-Boyd, Mary Finsterer, Kate Neal, Katy Abbott, Paul Stanhope and Andrew Ford. Last year’s winner was Peter Knight.

“I’ve been entering works into the Albert H Maggs award for quite a few years,” Skipworth said. “Of course it’s great to have been successful this year, but I’m using it more as a quick moment to reflect that my works are indeed getting better. Sometimes it’s hard to tell because we try to write the ‘perfect’ piece every time and it’s a bit of an emotional roller-coaster when you ask ‘am I actually happy with this?’ So this recognition helps ease any doubts about this particular work, although they never truly go away­ – but that’s the life of a creative person!”

Spiritus has also won the Boston-based New England Philharmonic’s 2017 Call for Scores competition and will be performed by the orchestra in March 2018, conducted by Richard Pittman.

Skipworth, who has previously won the Paul Lowin Orchestral Prize as well as Work of the Year: Orchestra (in 2015) and Work of the Year: Instrumental (2013) at the APRA AMCOS Art Music Awards, makes his debut with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in 2018, with a new work premiering in the orchestra’s Taikoz and the SSO programme in February.