“Sir Frank Tait has done the greatest service to Australian Theatre and to the arts of anyone we know.” Richard Bonynge AC CBE

The Tait Memorial Trust recently announced that 24 young ballet dancers and musicians have been awarded grants and prizes in 2019.

Since its foundation in 1992, the Tait has raised more than £900,000 (approximately $1.6 million AUD) to help support over 300 young musicians and dancers from Australia and New Zealand while they are studying in the UK. Awards have grown five-fold over the past six years due to a loyal base of generous personal donors and the Tait Friends, with applications rising 26 percent year on year. The Music Board is chaired by Australian conductor Jessica Cottis, and the Leanne Benjamin Ballet Awards Board is chaired by Tait Patron, Leanne Benjamin AM OBE.

The Tait Memorial Trust (TMT) was founded to honour the memory of Sir Frank and Viola, Lady Tait, and the Tait brothers who played such an important part in the establishment of theatre and the performing arts in Australia and New Zealand. The Trust’s first awardee was dramatic alto Liane Keegan from Victoria who won the Opera Foundation Australia Covent Garden Award in 1992. In her acceptance speech Keegan thanked her ‘fairy Godmother”, Viola, Lady Tait, for her success. Lady Tait asked her daughter, Isla Baring, “Now can you look after this young girl, she has a scholarship for her tuition but very little else, she needs money to survive”. Isla approached the Australian High Commissioner and he agreed. A fund-raising concert was a great success and with the encouragement and support of Dame Joan Sutherland, Richard Bonynge, John McCallum and Googie Withers, the Tait Memorial Trust was formed. Keegan went on to enjoy a long career in Europe and Australia, and is to sing Erda in the 2020 Opera Australia Ring Cycle.

Amy Huang at 2018 Tait Winter Prom. Photograph © Hannan Images

Notable Tait recipients over the years include soprano Siobhan Stagg (VIC), mezzo-soprano Catherine Carby (QLD), tenor Julian Gavin (VIC) dancer Lachlan Monaghan (NSW), conductor Jessica Cottis (ACT), pianist Jayson Gillham (QLD), tenor Filipe Manu (NZ), composer Connor D’Netto (QLD) and soprano Lauren Fagan (NSW).

Tait Adopt a Performer recipients for 2019 include violinist Amy Huang (NSW) who continues as the Tait Scholar at the Royal College of Music funded by the Julian Baring family, and cellist Daniel Pini (NSW) who is the recipient of the Tait Sir Charles Mackerras Chair with the Southbank Sinfonia. This prestigious scholarship is jointly sponsored by a bequest from the Estate of Lady Mackerras and the TMT.

Harpist and jazz vocalist Tara Minton (VIC) soprano Kiandra Howarth (QLD), mezzo-soprano Lotte Betts-Dean (VIC) and tenor Frederick Jones tenor (NZ) have all received grants for advanced studies from Eugenie White and the Estate of Andrew Loewenthal. Howarth won the Joan Sutherland & Richard Bonynge Foundation 2019 Bel Canto Award and is currently singing First Lady in Die Zauberflöte with the Royal Opera House.

Kiandra Howarth

Soprano Samantha Clarke (WA), who is currently on tour with Opera North singing Musetta in La Bohème, has been awarded the Thornton Foundation Award. Bass Paull-Anthony Keightley (WA), who is a principal artist at Theater Basel Switzerland, was awarded the Julian Baring Award funded by personally by Tait Chairman, Isla Baring OAM for advanced studies. Baritone Jeremy Kleeman (VIC) was awarded the John Frost Award to contribute towards his scholarship from the Australian International Opera Awards, which gives him a place to study at the Royal College of Music Opera School. Finally, mezzo-soprano Brontë Zemlic (VIC) was awarded the Tony & Jaki Bryant Award to fund her advanced vocal studies in the UK, while composer Luke Styles (NSW) – whose critically acclaimed opera Ned Kelly, premiered at the 2019 Perth Festival to sold-out crowds – has been awarded a grant from the VEC Acorn Trust to support his work. Styles was the first young composer in residence at Glyndebourne and premiered his opera Macbeth at the Linbury Studio Theatre, Royal Opera House.

Violinist Iona Allan (QLD), and mezzo-soprano Lotte Betts-Dean (VIC), were joint recipients of the John Amis Award for studies at the Dartington International Summer School of Music. Baritone Benson Wilson (NZ/Samoa) won the Tait Royal Over-Seas League prize. Wilson recently won the 2018 Bel Canto Award and the 2019 Kathleen Ferrier First Prize. Now on tour with Glyndebourne Touring Opera singing Marullo in Rigoletto, Wilson is currently a student at the National Opera Studio with fellow Tait Awardee, soprano Eliza Boom (NZ) who has been awarded the Frost/Frank & Viola Tait Award, funded by John Frost and the Tait. Other Tait music awardees include pianist Kathy Chow (VIC), organist Joshua Ryan (NSW) and violinist Claudia Tarrant-Matthews (NZ).

Zoe Brady

In 2014, the Trust created the Leanne Benjamin Awards for young dancers from Australia and New Zealand under the patronage of retired Royal Ballet principal dancer, Leanne Benjamin AM OBE. The 2019 recipients include Mason King (NZ),and Ruby Cross (QLD) who are both at the Royal Ballet School. Zoe Brady (QLD,) Jordan Micallef (NSW), Hannah Nash (NSW) and Charlotte Woodworth (NSW) are LBA recipients at the English National Ballet School. Woodworth’s award is sponsored by The Linbury Trust. A recent LBA Awardee, ENBS graduate, Chloe Keneally QLD won the Ballet section at this year’s BBC Young Dancer Awards, and has now joined the English National Ballet.

The Tait Trust has a sister organisation in Australia, The Tait Performing Arts Association, established in November 2011, a not for profit incorporated association based in Melbourne. A notable recipient was composer Connor D’Netto (QLD) the youngest Composer-in-Residence for the 2019 Australian Festival of Chamber Music.

The Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School (VCASS) and the Tait Performing Arts Association (TPAA) recently announced a joint agreement to benefit VCASS students who are continuing their training in the UK over the next few years. The inaugural VCASS & TPAA awardees this year are Clare Juan and Luca Dellar, Juan is studying at the Royal College of Music, and Dellar is at the National Ballet School.