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, October 14, 2010

A week in Tasmania

I think I've finally settled down enough to write about the superb week we have just spent in Hobart. I was Composer-in-Residence at the Tasmanian Conservatorium of Music last week, and Laura had a teaching gig at the Tasmanian Writers' Centre. Margaret brought her homework and, apart from a few hours a day spent doing maths and German, the city lay at her feet!

Hobart left a deep impression on all of us. Apart from its beauty and the happiness all around (people seemed really content to live there!) there was a delightful mix of sophistication and a "small town" feel. It was like stepping into a Cornish fishing village which just happened to have all the amenities of a capital city.

This included the University of Tasmania and its Conservatorium of Music. They were my generous and friendly hosts, providing us with a lovely, rustic cottage built around 1850 (and still going strong except for the night when the clothes dryer fell off the wall) and a steady, but not overwhelming, stream of student composers who are always exciting and challenging.

Apart from the one-to-one lessons (a bit of a novelty for me at the moment) I gave a two-hour seminar on my music, and Laura and I presented a one-hour seminar on the subject of collaboration - particularly ours.

On the Saturday night, the 9th October, pianist Vanessa Sharman capped the week off for me by premiering my "With Open Arms" for solo piano. Her intensity and musicianship were a blessing to a piece that has so much space, silence, reverberation and tension. The moment at the end where she crossed arms was a huge relief of tension both musically and "theatrically" - a dramatic moment she completely understood. In fact, she understood the work superbly all the way through. I could not have asked for a better reading of this work. I feel very blessed.

Sunday was a day to savour as, on Margaret's suggestion, we went to the Choral Eucharist at St David's Cathedral. An added bonus to the superb music was the presence of an old friend and colleague, Jane Edwards, who consummately performed the Mozart "Laudate Dominum". Afterwards, it was a great joy to have lunch with her, her husband Drew and little girl, Grace.

Add to all of this two perfect journeys to and from Wollongong and Hobart and we look back on this time as very special.

My thanks to Maria Grenfell, Don Kay and Kevin Purcell for making it all possible, Peter Lynch for organising the mechanics of it all, Sarah Miller for singing the papers and let me go and Stephen Ingham, who covered my classes while I was away.

And thanks to Laura and Margaret for coming with me :) It made all the difference that we could share this together.


  1. Thank YOU, Houston and family, for making the week so much more interesting and fun. Sorry you were all on a media diet, and the dryer fell off the wall. Hope to have you back again!

  2. Hey, the occasional media drought isn't bad! On the other hand, appliances falling off walls can't be good . . . .

  3. One day I hope you can see Tasmania in person, Karl! You'd love it