The Year Behind, The Year Ahead

Well. What a year that was, eh? 2021 was a difficult year for the world collectively and for many of us individually. For me, it was a real mixed bag. It was a tumultuous year in the ol’ personal life, made more challenging by lockdowns and border closures. Amid C***d restrictions, performances were few and far between. Come December, my spirit animal was the following potato.

But 2021 also gave me things to be grateful for. I got back into playing tennis, I was adopted by a cat…twice (long story), and I was able to cross the border to see my family at Christmas. I was also offered some incredible composing opportunities which gave me purpose during a challenging year. So, in no particular order, here are five of my musical highlights from 2021 🙂

1. My first performance at the Sydney Opera House! In February, I was selected for Omega Ensemble’s inaugural CoLAB Composer Accelerator Program. I composed a quintet in two movements, Nigel, which tells the true story of a bird that fell in love with a statue. I cannot speak highly enough of the program, ensemble, and staff. Myself and the other CoLAB participants were mentored by composers including Nico Muhly, Chris Cerrone, and Carl Vine, had our pieces premiered at the Opera House, and then recorded. The recording is being edited and I’ll be able to release it soon.

2. My first commission from a major orchestra! Also in February, I was selected for the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra’s Cybec 21st Century Composer Program. I’d applied for this several times, and almost given up hope. But, fifth time proved the charm. I wrote a piece for large chamber orchestra called My Mother Plays the Cello as a gift to my mum on her 60th birthday. It’s a kind of fantasia on the piece I most associate with her, the ‘Prelude’ to J.S. Bach’s Cello Suite in G Major. The premiere is coming up at 6:30pm on January 29th at the Iwaki Auditorium in Melbourne. Come along if you can!

3. Lights, Camera, Transfiguration! In March, my piano suite Light and Transfiguration was recorded by Michael Kieran Harvey. The piece charts the journey of energy from the sun to the earth and into its web of living bodies. It was my major project during my Masters degree and I feel so fortunate to have had it played by an Aussie music legend like Michael.

4. (MMus)sion Complete! In June, I completed my Master of Music at the Sydney Conservatorium. I learnt heaps about the field of the environmental music and composed a whole whack of music: Garden Suite, Denali, Warhol in The Tenderloin, Embers, The Laws of Motion, and Light and Transfiguration. Recordings and score samples of all works are available at the links above. Do check them out, and if you’d like to perform any of them, chuck me an email!

5. Here an orchestra, there and orchestra, everywhere an orchestra orchestra! Given the restrictions in place this year, it’s hard to believe that my orchestral piece The Laws of Motion (and it’s companion piece Rapids and Ripples) was played by not one, not two, not three, but FOUR different orchestras. All of these were workshops of one kind or another. But to work with so many large ensemble in a year like this was a surprise and a privilege. Hopefully there will be a proper premiere in 2022!


2022 is shaping up as another year of uncertainty. But I’m looking forward to some great projects. In the first half of the year, my big project will be three pieces for the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra. It was such a thrill to be accepted into their 2022-23 Australian Composers’ School, which will see me write five pieces over the next two years. Later in the year, I have a commission for a chamber ensemble in Sydney to look forward to. Details of this haven’t been released yet, but hopefully I can share more soon.

It’s looking like a busy year. But if you’re interested in commissioning me, I’d love to hear from you. I may have time for another project later in the year depending on the scale. And if the timing doesn’t work out this year, we can certainly chat about collaborating in 2023! Do drop me a line if you’re interested.

If you’ve got this far, thanks for reading. Follow me on Ye Olde Facebooke to stay up-to-date with my activities. Happy New Year! Wishing you all a healthy and happy 2022 😊

All the best,

Angus

Sal, one of my legal guardians.

TSO Australian Composers’ School

It’s a huge honour to be selected for the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra’s 2022-23 Australian Composer’s School. I’ll be writing several works for the orchestra over a two year period under the guidance of leading Australian composers. Congratulations to the other participants Tom Misson, Sam Wu, and Georgia Scott.

Omega Ensemble and the MSO

I’m absolutely thrilled to have been selected for Omega Ensemble‘s CoLAB Composer Accelerator Program and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra‘s Cybec 21st Century Composer Program.

These are two of the best young composer opportunities Australia has to offer and it’s a privilege to be selected. Over the course of the coming year I’ll be composing new pieces for Omega Ensemble and the MSO, which will be performed and recorded.

Two Recordings in March

In March I was fortunate to have two pieces recorded in Hobart.

My orchestral piece Rapids and Ripples – which was runner up in last year’s Willoughby Symphony Young Composer Award – was workshopped by the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra. Ten years on since winning TSO’s Student Composition Competition, it was a joy to hear the orchestra play my work again.

With conductor Simon Reade in the studio of the Federation Concert Hall

I was also very lucky to record my piano suite Light and Transfiguration with the inimitable Michael Kieran Harvey. This piece is the culmination of my Masters research into music modelled on natural processes and one of my most ambitious pieces to-date. We filmed the piece in the beautiful salon at the Tasmanian Conservatorium of Music, and I’m looking forward to sharing this soon.

With Michael Kieran Harvey following a great recording session

December Update

I was extremely excited to learn this month that I’d placed in both a national and international orchestral composition prize. The Laws of Motion has been selected as one of four finalists in the international Tampa Bay Symphony Orchestra Composition Competition. Rapids and Ripples has won runner up in a national composition competition. Details of this haven’t been formally announced, but I look forward to sharing more.

In other news, Warhol in The Tenderloin – which I wrote last year for Ensemble Offspring – has received a performance from the Sydney Conservatorium Modern Music Ensemble. It was great to see this piece getting another outing at a mask-wearing concert in October and to get this great recording.

Also in October, I was fortunate to have Embers workshopped by the Hobart Wind Symphony and the Sydney Conservatorium Wind Symphony. With so many restrictions on performances (especially by large ensembles [and particularly large ensembles with wind instruments!]) it was unexpected to have one workshop let alone two. I’ve made a tiny snippet of the rough workshop recording available until a proper performance can happen.

And, it was with satisfaction (and not a little relief) that I finished my piano suite Light and Transfiguration this month. This piece took seven months from go to whoa and, conceptually, it’s one of the most ambitious works I’ve written. Plans are afoot to record this with a really top-notch pianist early in 2021.

All in all, 2020 has been…well, you know how it’s been. It’s not been the single best year to be an early career composer. But then it’s not been the best year to be in any field apart from, presumably, video conferencing software development. And, in the scheme of a global pandemic that is wreaking havoc on the lives of so many, there are far worse things than not being able to get your very niche music played. I’m extremely grateful to have had even a couple of performances and workshops this year, and really appreciate those that have facilitated it. My best wishes to all who read this. Happy holidays and may 2021 treat you well.

Modern Music Ensemble perform Warhol in The Tenderloin

July Update

Today I put the finishing touches on my new orchestral piece, a three movement suite called The Laws of Motion. First described by scientist Isaac Newton in the 1600s, the laws of motion are the physical principles governing how objects move. Each movement of the suite is inspired by a different law of motion which was a fun and interesting challenge for me as a starting point for the piece. I’m looking forward to working on this with the Ku-Ring-Gai Philharmonic in the not-too-distant future!

April Update

Hello to everyone from composer corner where I’m currently spending an even higher proportion of my time than usual. Like everyone, I’ve had some performances cancelled due to COVID-19 (including one in the US which was to have occurred on Tuesday) but overall I’m feeling fortunate. I’ve been able to continue my Masters remotely and have been busily composing. I’ve completed a ten minute work for wind symphony, featuring extended solos for several members of the ensemble. And I’m now working on a chunky multi-movement piano suite inspired by the transformation of energy through ecosystems. Next up, I’ll be writing a short work for orchestra, having been selected for the Ku-ring-Gai Philharmonic’s biannual composer program. It’s hard to known when these pieces will see the light of day. But, I’m having a rather fun vocal piece from 2018 recorded (long-distance) and look forward to sharing that soon!