Any arts event that actually materialises in the current trying circumstances is to be counted as a major triumph, and the APRA AMCOS Art Music Awards were one such success story, not just for those who came out winners but for the whole art music sector at such a difficult time. The Art Music awards night was streamed on 8 September via YouTube, and it was wonderful to celebrate the tenacity and energy of those who made it to the finals. To have attracted a record number of nominations this year – 278 across 13 categories – was statement itself on the sector’s vigour.
Work of the Year winners were Cat Hope for her wordless opera Speechless, Elliott Gyger and Pierce Wilcox’s for their opera Oscar and Lucinda, James Ledger for his new Viola Concerto, Chris Dench for his piano work passing bells: day, Paul Stanhope for his choral composition I am Martuwarra, Matthias Schack-Arnott for his percussion piece Everywhen, and Linda May Han Oh for her jazz work Aventurine.
Annual awards such as these that recognise major works and performances in a given 12-month period can overlook contributions made over a longer span. That is why the new Luminary Awards were especially welcome this year in the Art Music Awards line-up. Aimed at “recognising sustained contributions by individuals and organisations”, the inaugural Luminary Award for an Individual went to composer Chris Sainsbury. He is a descendant of the Dharug kinship group in Sydney, and he teaches music at the Australian National University’s School of Music. His Luminary Award recognised his central role in the broad-based and far-reaching Ngarra-Burria: First Nations Composers program, which has been supporting and mentoring emerging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander composers over the last five years.
“Chris’ work over the past five years has had a national impact in both training emerging First Nations composers and redefining their role and future within Australian art music,” said the judging panel.
Last year, Ngarra-Burria artists included James Henry, Nardi Simpson and Eric Avery, and composer mentors were Deborah Cheetham, Kim Cunio and Sainsbury himself. Many bodies have teamed up with Ngarra-Burria to assist in its programs, including the Canberra International Music Festival, Melbourne Festival, Four Winds Festival, Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Ensemble Offspring and the Sydney Dance Company.
The Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra took out the Luminary Award for an Organisation for its multipronged career development programs for emerging Australian composers. These notably include its Australian Composers’ School and Australian Conducting Academy. There were eight additional state and territory winners in these inaugural Luminary Awards.
See here for the full list of winners in all categories.
The 2020 Virtual Art Music Awards is available here for viewing for 30 days.
Music Australia offers its congratulations to all this year’s nominees and winners.