Sydney ensemble the Cousin Quartet has taken out the top prize in Strike a Chord, Musica Viva’s inaugural National Chamber Music Championship for secondary school ensembles. The Grand Final of the competition, which – due to the COVID-19 pandemic – was streamed online by Melbourne Digital Concert Hall, saw 12 ensembles compete from locations across six states and territories.

Strike a Chord winners the Cousin QuartetThe Cousin Quartet performing at City Recital Hall. Photo courtesy of Musica Viva Australia

The Cousin Quartet, which performed live at Sydney’s City Recital Hall, took home the $5000 Robert Salzer Prize. Brisbane’s JPMS Ensemble Brilliante, a percussion ensemble, came in second, winning the $4000 Paul Morawetz Prize, as well as the $2000 audience-chosen Paul Morawetz Prize, while The Lashavi Trio from Sydney came in third, taking home the $2000 Laura Brown Prize.

“Today’s Grand Final was a stunning display of the depth of talent in all corners of Australia,” said Artistic Director Wilma Smith, who chaired the jury, which included David Griffiths, Euan Murdoch, Louise Devenish, Rosie Turner and Timothy Young. “Our five jurors had a tremendously difficult task in choosing the three major prize-winners and I congratulate all twelve finalists for their inspirational achievement. The Cousin Quartet, the winner of the Robert Salzer First Prize and our very first Strike A Chord Champion, exemplified all the qualities we find in the best chamber music and we are thrilled to offer them our special congratulations.”

“I’d like to extend my thanks and a huge bravo to all 103 groups who entered this historic event,” she said. “Through their extraordinary diligence and perseverance, they achieved such a high standard in a challenging year. I’d also like to acknowledge their teachers, parents, families and friends for providing knowledge, support and encouragement to these young musicians so they can continue to find fulfilment in this very special art form and bring joy to others through their playing.”

Musica Viva CEO Hywel Sims also congratulated the performers. “The brilliant young musicians who participated in this first Strike A Chord are an inspiration – battling against increasingly complicated odds to produce wonderful music,” he said. “We salute them, thank everyone who made this inaugural event possible and look forward to next year!”

Finals for Lockdown Legends – a competition open to groups from states that have been under extended/renewed Level 3 or 4 lockdown during Term 3, and as such were unable to participate in Strike A Chord – will take place on December 6, with entries open from October 12.