Finalists have just been announced in the fifth Melbourne Prize for Music, and they include some of Australia’s most respected figures in composition, performance and curation: Deborah Cheetham AO, David Bridie, Andrea Keller, Erkki Veltheim and Sophia Brous.
The winner, to be announced on 13 November, will collect a very considerable $60,000 in prizemoney, making the Melbourne Prize for Music one of the most lucrative music awards in this country.
It operates differently to perhaps any other music award, coming around every three years in between similar prizes being offered in sculpture and literature. Open to Australian citizens resident in Victoria, MPM says it sets out to recognise and reward “excellence and talent in music across all genres and career stages”. Previous winners have been singer-songwriter Kutcha Edwards (2016), composer Brett Dean (2013), drummer David Jones (2010), and jazz musician Paul Grabowsky (2007).
This year the field is as strong as ever. Deborah Cheetham AO is the composer of landmark works Pecan Summer, the 2010 opera themed around the Stolen Generations, and her more recent requiem-based Eumeralla, which similarly speaks of the experiences of First Nations People in the colonialist era. The latter was performed with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra in June. A Yorta Yorta woman and soprano, Cheetham is also artistic director of Short Black Opera Company.
Instrumentalist, vocalist and composer of numerous feature films, David Bridie also tells of the collision of cultures in his work. His soundtrack for In a Savage Land (1999) won several awards including the ARIA Music Award for Best Original Soundtrack, and this year he released his newest studio album, The Wisdom Line, which uniquely bases each of its songs around a series of short films by international filmmakers. Bridie received the prestigious Don Banks Music Award this year.
Andrea Keller is a leading jazz musician who is in high demand for her ability to work collaboratively and across different musical styles. She has composed for many groups and individuals including Ensemble Offspring, The Sydney Women’s Jazz Collective, The Song Company and Black Arm Band. Keller is winner of three ARIAs, six Australian Jazz ‘Bell’ Awards, two Art Music Awards, an APRA Professional Development Award, and the Merlyn Myer Composing Women’s Commission.
Erkki Veltheim is an equally versatile musician who works at the forefront of experimental art music. He has appeared as a violinist and composer with many groups and orchestras, such as the Australian Chamber Orchestra, the Melbourne and Sydney Symphony Orchestras, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, London Sinfonietta, Elision and Ensemble Modern. Veltheim’s collaborations include composing and arranging for Dr G Yunupingu’s final album, Djarimirri (Child of the Rainbow).
Sophia Brous has come to wide attention as program director of the Melbourne International Jazz Festival in 2009-2011. She engaged the celebrated theatre and playwright figure Robert Wilson for the 2019 iteration of this latter event. She is a cross-disciplinary musician, vocalist, composer, curator and performance-maker based in New York and Melbourne. An artist of diverse interests, she creates and performs in new, commissioned works internationally with artists including David Byrne, Marc Ribot, Julia Holter, Mick Harvey, Kimbra and Moses Sumney. She has performed at The Barbican, Kennedy Center, Paris Philharmonie, Southbank Centre and Sydney Opera House, and was artist-in-resident of National Sawdust New York, Robert Wilson’s The Watermill Center and Red Bull Studios New York. Brous is Artistic Associate at the Arts Centre Melbourne where she founded Supersense: Festival of the Ecstatic.
The Melbourne Prize for Music has a number of associated prizes on offer: the Development Award for early career artists or groups, the Beleura Emerging Composers Award for emerging composers, the Distinguished Musician Fellowship, and a Civic Choice Award. Winners will all be announced on 13 November. Find details here.