About Me

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I was born in Northern Ireland, live in Australia, and am a composer, conductor and actor. I am Head of Composition and Production at The Australian Institute of Music and Musical Director of the Sydney Male Choir. I've been Visiting Composer at Universities and schools and my music has been performed in Australia, the USA, the UK, Canada, France, Germany, China, Italy, Ireland, Taiwan, Argentina, Mexico and Puerto Rico by many international concert artists and ensembles. My compositional interests include music for orchestra, the theatre (including dance), the voice and the church, the combination of electro-acoustic and acoustic resources especially in real time, the exploration of virtuosity and indigenous Australian music. I've conducted in festivals and concerts all over the world, as well as acted in too many professional theatre works to list here.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Back again! This time with a review!

Review – As You Like It.
Arden Productions – Melbourne Fringe Festival.
20th September – 4th October, 7pm; Sat 2.30pm & 7pm; Sun 2.30pm & 6pm.

Produced by Denise Hurley.
Directed by Julian Beckedahl.
Music by Joe Gravil.
Costumes by Emma Lockely.

Reviewed by Houston Dunleavy.

When one hears about a Shakespeare production being subjected to yet another re-interpretation, the first thought that can cross your mind is, “Oh no! Not another one!” Since first becoming aware of Shakespeare I’ve seen (and acted in) so many re-castings, re-settings, re-imaginings and re-interpretations that I long to see Julius Caeser in a toga; Macbeth as a king in a castle instead of skinhead in a shopping mall; Hamlet in a set other than the discarded one for “Brideshead Revisited”.
It must be said, though, that this longing to do Shakespeare in another setting, in another style or in another time from its original (and the one in which it is presented) comes from a number of motivations. Probably the universality of Shakespeare’s themes are to blame. We can each read the play and discover in it a connection to our own view of the world. We look at the language and the relationships and see in them the cradle of our own modern thoughts and modes of speech. Shakespeare speaks to us all in different ways, and it is our own view of the world that causes the words to be heard the way we want them to be.

This production does just that. The gender swapping for characters to produce three couples of various combinations – a straight couple, a gay male couple and a lesbian couple – reflects the current debate about the nature of love and the types of relationship commitments that exist in, at least, our urban communities. The choice of a play where gender lines are already blurred is a good one; characters have their genders swapped from the outset (Phoebe become Phoebus, Oliver becomes Olivia, the Dukes become Duchesses). In a play where one of female protagonists spends the entire second act as a young man, this hardly grates at all. Perhaps the only time it does is during the “Seven Ages of Man” speech where there is a constant addition of “woman”, “her”, etc. Whilst this makes sense, dramatically, it throws a small spanner into the internal working of the rhythm of the poetry.

That speech is given not, as it usually is, by Jacques, but by the exiled Duchess (Senya, in this production, rather than Senior). Jacques doesn’t enter the play at all, but his lines are divided up amongst other characters, with most of his famous melancholy being taken up by Monsieur Le Beau (played with immense bravery by Michel Argus, who only took the role on a week before the curtain arose!). This a pity as even this reading of the play needs a foil to parry its message, and, I think, it would have been much stronger and more human to realise that not everyone will be going along for the ride; someone is always left out through deliberate choice. What is to become of that person who won’t join in the dance? That is the only real hole in this re-imagining.

The performances are universally very strong from a tight ensemble. Elisa Armstrong’s “Rosalind” is a character of agency and vulnerability – a difficult combination to manage. Her comic timing and subtlety of face was a highlight for me, as was her change of body language and posture. Darcy Kent’s “Orlando” had possibly a little too much self-awareness and intelligence at times for me. His Orlando seems to know something is up with Gannymede, so why is it such a surprise to him that “he” is really is Rosalind at the end?

Madeleine Stewart’s “Celia” is a good contrast to Rosalind. There is agency here, but Stewart found a coquettishness and mischievous side to the character that gave her space to work in. Tali’s “Olivia” revealed a broken person beneath the privilege, and her subsequent repairing in her relationship with Celia was beautifully portrayed by both actors.

Tatanya des Fontaines-Burns portrayed two very different sisters. This was a mesmerising effort. She is a very good, technically-adept actor. The modulations of voice and body were striking. Tony Adams’s two characters also had clear lines of physical definition. His “Charles”, in particular, was warm and sympathetic, making clear sense of Orlando’s line about him not being a man for these times.

The pairing of James Coley (“Phoebus”) and Will Sutherland (“Silvius”) was full of timing and trust. This relationship, as portrayed in this production, was another highlight for me. It had greater tension that I usually associate with these two characters, who seem to be in this play as “stock” characters rather than have any substance and agency of their own. I felt, for once, that these two characters actually mattered.

Joe Gravil’s music remains somewhat detached from the play’s sense of its own reality. This is not a bad thing. The music creates a new atmosphere. It never attempts to re-tell the story in a musical way, which can be na├»ve at best, and show a misunderstanding of the nature of music. Instead, the music reinforces that slight toying within the play’s new setting. It smooths out the odder moments of transition where lines are repeated, seemingly to remind the audience of what happened in the last scene, and allows those repeated lines the chance to have somewhere to live.

This is a good production with the right balance of homage to the original and adaption to a current method of viewing the world where the elemental themes of love, power, jealousy and reflection are not lost in the scenery, costumes of or an outlandish setting.

See this show. It’s worth it.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

I'm so proud to able to share these videos! These are of the US premiere of my concerto for viola and winds, "A Kiss Before The World's End" performed by Brett Deubner and the Omaha Symphonic Winds conducted by William Hall on 21st October, 2012 in Omaha, Nebraska. Enjoy!

Thanks to all of you for a wonderful performance of this piece!!
Part 1 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fdiB1GOylW8
Part 2 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zyVkeGIrZxY

Thursday, April 19, 2012

What a week coming up

April 24th, World premiere of "Absence" for String Quartet and absent violinist to be premiered in New York.
April 25th, conducting the Sydney Male Choir at the televised Anzac Day Dawn Service at the Cenotaph, Martin Place, Sydney
April 28th conducting the Sydney Male Choir at St Matthews Anglican Church, West Pennant Hills
April 29th World premiere of "Just Before It Snows" for viola and piano by Brett Deubner, viola and Amanda Harburg, piano. Here's the poster for this last one! 

Hope you can make at least one of these events!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

2012, where have you been all my life?

The Mayans may have thought we'd not get past this year, and if we don't,  I'm not sure I'd be too unhappy. 2011 had a lot going for it, with some fabulous premieres and travel to places like Thailand to hear my music, and the knowledge that pieces were being played in Japan, Singapore, the USA, UK and France as well as all over Australia. The highlight of all of this (in a year which was full of lights on the top shelf!) was surely the premier of "A Kiss Before The World's End", my concerto for Viola and Symphonic Wind Ensemble, played by Brett Deubner, viola and the Grainger Wind Symphony, conducted by Roland Yeung. The links to the two videos follow:

Part 1

Parts 2 and 3

However, the premiere of Laura's and my two short operas by Opera Prometheus in November has to be right up there too! Both of these pieces seem to have legs for further performances. The US premiere for "A Kiss Before The World's End" is scheduled for 28th October in Omaha, Nebraska, and there are possible further performances of the operas in Australia and the US.

2012 seems to be even bigger than its predecessor however, with the performances already mentioned above, two major recording projects now mooted (one for all my piano music and one for my low brass music), two new concertos (possibly three!) as well as other chamber works AND a big year with the Sydney Male Choir

I have some teaching to do at the Australian Institute of Music and am now an Adjunct Fellow at the Australian National University School of Music

I can't help thinking that the University of Wollongong's axing of my department can have been anything but a Good Thing, to invoke the parlance of Sellar and Yeatman. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

December Premiere!!

It's started already: the publicity for the premiere of my concerto for Viola and Symphonic Winds called "A Kiss Before The World's End", written in memory of my friend and former student, Daniel Pearl, who was beheaded by Al-Qaeda in Pakistan in 2002. Along with my string quartet "Absence", this work forms my tribute to Danny as we approach the tenth anniversary of his death on 1st February 2012.

Both of these pieces are scheduled to be performed this year, with "Absence" to be premiered in October in Los Angeles and "Kiss" to receive its first performance by American viola virtuoso Brett Deubner and the Granger Wind Symphony, conducted by Roland Yeung at Melbourne's Iwaki Auditorium on Saturday 3rd December, 2011.

Here's the poster for this concert!

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Sydney Male Choir at the Sydney Town Hall

Yes, it's the BIG one for the year. In a year of great concerts, this is the one that stands out as the Sydney Male Choir takes over the Sydney Town Hall on Sunday, 4th September at 2 pm. As it's Father's Day, the concert's theme is "A Father's Life and Love", and it will focus on pieces that reflect the full experience of being a father ‐ from the love and devotion he has to his partner in life to the stresses and joys of dealing with what makes him a dad ‐ kids!

Bookings can be made through the choir's website. Get in early to avoid being disappointed! 

Thursday, August 4, 2011


Yes, Peter Sheridan has done it again - created a marvellous CD and work of art called "Monologues and Dialogues" on the legendary Move Records label. He has recorded my "Serenade" for contrabass flute. Click here to order! I can't tell you the excitement I get when this happens! Someone other than my wife thinks my music is good! :)