Wade Gregory has been announced as the winner of the Matt Withers Australian Music Composition Competition for his work Water Music. Gregory will take home a cash prize of $2000 for his work inspired by Sue Needham’s Stormy Seashore trio of watercolours, which were the inspiration works for this year’s competition.

Rick Alexander’s Storming came in second, winning the composer $750 cash in addition to the tour and recording, while the $500 Emerging Composer/Under 25 Prize went to Nava Ryan for Solitude. All three composers will see their work toured by guitarist Matt Withers and the Acacia Quartet. The works will also be recorded and licenced for digital release by ABC Classics.

Wade Gregory, Matt Withers, Composition PrizeMatt Withers Australian Music Composition Competition winner Wade Gregory. Photo: supplied

“I’m absolutely thrilled to have been considered for the short-list; to have won is a dream come true,” Gregory told Limelight. “Often as a composer you enter competitions such as these and never hear anything. I’m delighted to have the chance to hear one of my works performed and interpreted by incredible musicians.”

“I grew up not far from the ocean on Bribie Island – in my childhood I would often look at scenes such as those depicted by artist Sue Needham and be mesmerised by the beauty and power of nature,” he said. “I understand Sue lives on the Sunshine Coast, so it’s quite possible that we’ve both been inspired by the beauty of the local area, and in particular the stunning Pumicestone Passage. I have also been inspired and influenced by Brazilian music over a number of years, by great composers such as Jobim, Pixinguinha, Barroso, Pascoal, etc. The joy in their rhythms and the longing in their melodies is something I find infectious and inspiring, and is what jumped out at me when I saw Sue’s paintings of the beach. The final movement of Water Music is a tribute to those great composers: it’s a samba for string quartet and guitar!”

“This competition is an amazing opportunity for my career, and the exposure from a recording on ABC is absolutely priceless,” Gregory said. “Competitions such as this are essential for the development of Australian music, and I encourage all composers to continue entering as many competitions as possible.”

Matt Withers, Acacia Quartet, Composition CompetitionThe Acacia Quartet and guitarist Matt Withers. Photo: supplied

This is the biggest year yet for Withers’ competition, which first ran in 2014. “My Australian Music Composition Competition has grown in many ways with larger cash prizes, a chamber music tour with the esteemed Acacia Quartet as well as a studio recording up for grabs,” Withers told Limelight. “All this has led to an increase in the number of entries as well as dramatic compositional variety in the submitted works. It is incredibly pleasing to see such talent from composers of all ages who are refining their art.”

“There was wonderful imagination from composers, each drawing something different from the three images which has led me to call my upcoming upcoming tour and album with Acacia Quartet, Imaginations,” Withers said. “Some entrants chose one painting as their inspiration whilst most chose to write in three separate movements or distinct sections, focusing each movement on a different image. Imagery was generally taken from the colours, brush strokes and textures of Sue Needham’s art work. Musical stories were created about both what was seen in and also what was not visible in the artworks.”

“Wade Gregory’s Water Music is in three movements, Clouds, River and Ocean which beautifully capture the essence of the watercolour inspiration works,” Withers said. “The judging panel thoroughly enjoyed the immense talent from Australian composers from around the globe. Of course, it was a difficult decision narrowing the works down as there was so much great music submitted this year. The overall quality of all the entries impressed the judging panel though Wade Gregory’s work, Water Music, was a highlight and clearly stood out as first place material.”

“Acacia Quartet and I are looking forward to performing the three winning works on our Imaginations tour in August and September as well as getting into the studio to record the All-Australian-Program,” Withers said.

The tour will also include a new commission by Richard Charlton – also based on the inspiration artworks – as well as other works for guitar and string quartet by Australian composers.


Pre-sales of the studio album Imaginations will be available soon and concert tickets are on sale now, with details at www.mattwithers.com.au