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West Australian musicians clean up at 2020 Art Music Awards

West Australian artists have dominated the 2020 Art Music Awards, taking out several major categories ranging from opera and jazz to a percussion work and a regional schools initiative.

Concocted with local music educator Gillian Howell, Tura New Music’s Fitzroy Valley New Music Project won the award for excellent in a regional area at the virtual ceremony streamed via APRA AMCOS’ YouTube channel.

The Healthway-backed project saw Howell work with local schools, agencies and Indigenous corporations to create new musical compositions during the third and final year of the residency.

Tura New Music artistic director Tos Mahoney said in a prerecorded acceptance speech that the award belonged equally to everyone who worked on the project in the Fitzroy Valley.

James Ledger’s Viola Concerto took out work of the year: large ensemble at this year’s Art Music Awards.
Camera IconJames Ledger’s Viola Concerto took out work of the year: large ensemble at this year’s Art Music Awards.

Presented by APRA AMCOS and the Australian Music Centre, the 10th annual Art Music Awards also honoured more established WA talent with James Ledger’s Viola Concerto, written for the WA Symphony Orchestra, being named work of the year in the large ensemble category.

Judges called his concerto “a highly sophisticated work with its innovative harmonic language and beautiful synergy between all its elements”.

Ledger thanked WASO and conductor Fabien Gabel for premiering the work.

“They did a wonderful job,” he said. “But especially I would like to thank Brett Dean, the soloist, he did a fantastic job bringing it to life and it was such an honour for me for him to play this work.”

Ledger joked that he looked forward to the awards being held in Perth next year.

Meanwhile Perth-born musician Cat Hope shared the inaugural award for work of the year: dramatic.

Cat Hope won an Art Music Award with her wordless opera Speechless.
Camera IconCat Hope won an Art Music Award with her wordless opera Speechless.

The judging panel unanimously agreed to honour Hope’s wordless opera Speechless, which was inspired by the 2014 Human Rights Commission Report about children in immigration detention, alongside Elliott Gyger and Pierce Willcox’s Oscar and Lucinda.

Hope described the recognition for Speechless as “amazing” and said she was “very grateful” for the support of Tura New Music, which collaborated on the project.

Malaysian-born bassist and composer Linda May Han Oh continued WA’s strong performance at the virtual gongs by taking home the jazz work of the year title with her Aventurine, which judges described as “a pinnacle of what jazz can be in Australia today”.

Bassist and composer Linda May Han Oh is among the WA winners from this year’s Art Music Awards.
Camera IconBassist and composer Linda May Han Oh is among the WA winners from this year’s Art Music Awards.

WA percussionist Louise Devenish also made it a big night for female musicians — her solo project Sheets of Sound won performance of the year: notated composition.

The “curious exploration of the intersection between sound, performance and installation” was held at the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts in June last year.

The creation of the work was funded by the Australia Council and co-presented by PICA and Tura New Music, with producer and WA musician Tristan Parr.

Devenish said she was “delighted to accept this award on behalf of the Sheets of Sound team”.

West Australian percussionist Louise Devenish won two gongs at the 2020 Art Music Awards.
Camera IconWest Australian percussionist Louise Devenish won two gongs at the 2020 Art Music Awards. Credit: Olivia Davies

Devenish was also took home the luminary award for WA, with the national title going to Dharug composer Chris Sainsbury for initiating and driving the Ngarra-Burria: First Nations Composers program.

According to judges: “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”.

The Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra won the luminary award for an organisation for its long-term commitment to the professional development of Australian composers and performers.

Katie Noonan won Queensland’s luminary award at the 2020 Art Music Awards.
Camera IconKatie Noonan won Queensland’s luminary award at the 2020 Art Music Awards. Credit: Scott Barbour/Getty Images

Other winners included Melbourne-based composer Matthias Schack-Arnott for his work Everywhen, jazz performer Sandy Evans and the team behind her Bridge of Dreams, pianist Chris Dench and Queensland musician Katie Noonan.

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