The winners of the 2021 Art Music Awards have been announced, with Cathy Milliken, Anne Cawrse, Lisa Young and Vanessa Perica among the individuals honoured, and Sydney Chamber Opera, Moorambilla Voices and Speak Percussion among the organisations to take home a gong.

Jessica O’Donoghue in Sydney Chamber Opera’s Commute. Photo © Daniel Boud

Reflecting the chaotic nature of the music industry these past two years, the awards were originally to have been held at a traditional gala event. When that proved impossible, a digital-only show was developed, featuring pre-recorded performances and presentations. Sadly, even that was scuppered by the current lockdowns in Sydney and Melbourne. Instead it was left to the co-presenters of the awards, APRA AMCOS and the Australian Music Centre (AMC), to congratulate the winners in a press release.

Dean Ormston, APRA AMCOS Chief Executive, and Marshall McGuire, Chair of the AMC’s Board of Directors, said in a statement, “While we are disappointed to have not had the chance to celebrate with you all in person, we remain committed to advocating on behalf of music creators, organisations and arts workers. Our planned virtual program was to have been a unique showcase of Australian art music, and we look forward to acknowledging your incredible work in person in 2022.”

The Art Music Awards recognise excellence in both composition and performance across a number of classical and jazz genres. In addition, each year Luminary Awards are given to individuals and organisations in each state, acknowledging leadership in the industry. And as previously announced, Penny Lomax and Maureen Cooney, founders of ABC’s The Music Show, are the recipients of the Richard Gill Award for Distinguished Services to Australian Music.

Limelight Artist of the Year nominee Anne Cawrse was awarded Work of the Year in the Chamber category for her string quartet A Room of Her Own, commissioned by the Australian String Quartet (Ed: look for an extended interview with Cawrse on the Limelight website next week). Cawrse was also presented with a Luminary Award for “her sustained contribution to the new music culture of Adelaide through composition and education”.

Moorambilla Voices was presented with the Award for Excellence in Music Education for their Magic Modules program, an initiative that made curriculum materials easily available online for students in regional and remote NSW once teaching shifted online at the onset of COVID.

Soprano Deborah Kayser was presented with a Luminary Award for her 30 years of championing Australian music, while Speak Percussion was presented with a Luminary Award in the Organisation category in recognition of its leadership of and contribution to Australian art music.

The other state-based Luminary Awards went to a range of deserving figures who have done so much to nurture audiences and the industry, not just during the pandemic but in many cases for decades. Melbourne Digital Concert Hall was acknowledged as the Victorian Luminary for its pioneering work over the past 18 months, while Ensemble Offspring received the NSW award for its 25-year commitment to Australian music. Alex Raineri, the pianist and Artistic Director behind the Brisbane Music Festival, received the Queensland award, while founder of Cut Common, Stephanie Eslake, received the Tasmanian award for her work “providing a voice to emerging composers and performers”.


Work of the Year: Choral
Title: Sacred Stepping Stones
Composer: Lisa Young
Text: Lisa Young
Performer: Massed choir, Gondwana National Choral School 2020 and Lisa Young, conductor

Work of the Year: Dramatic
Title: Dragon Ladies Don’t Weep; a Chamber Made & CultureLink Singapore co-production
Composer: Erik Griswold
Performer: Margaret Leng Tan, performer, Tamara Saulwick, director, Nick Roux, video artist, and Kok Heng Leun, dramaturg.

Work of the Year: Jazz
Title: Spaccanapoli
Composer: Vanessa Perica
Performer: Vanessa Perica Orchestra

Work of the Year: Large Ensemble
Title: Piece 43 For Now
Composer: Cathy Milliken
Performer: SWR Symphonieorchester and Titus Engel, conductor

Work of the Year: Chamber Music
Title: A Room of Her Own
Composer: Anne Cawrse
Performer: Australian String Quartet

Work of the Year: Electroacoustic/Sound Art
Title: Closed Beginnings
Composer: Tariro Mavondo, Reuben Lewis and Peter Knight
Performer: Tariro Mavondo, poetry, Reuben Lewis and Peter Knight, music, Jem Savage, sound production and Leo Dale, video production

Performance of the Year: Jazz/Improvised Music
Title: Silent Towns
Composer: Phonetic Orchestra
Performer: Phonetic Orchestra

Performance of the Year: Notated Composition
Performer: Sydney Chamber Opera, Jessica O’Donoghue, Jack Symonds, conductor, and Clemence Williams, director
Title: Commute
Composer: Peggy Polias
Text: Peggy Polias

Award for Excellence in Music Education
Moorambilla Voices for Moorambilla Magic Modules

Award for Excellence in Experimental Music
Leah Barclay, Lyndon Davis & Tricia King for Listening in the Wild

Luminary Awards

Deborah Kayser for 30-year contribution to Australian music as a trail-blazing soprano

Speak Percussion for visionary leadership and sustained contribution to Australian art music

NSW: Ensemble Offspring for consistently high-quality performances, breadth of repertoire, and commitment to collaboration for 25 years

VICTORIA: Melbourne Digital Concert Hall for supporting the classical music industry during the COVID-19 crisis

QLD: Alex Raineri for commitment to the creation and performance of Australian contemporary music in the Brisbane Music Festival

SA: Anne Cawrse for sustained contribution to the new music culture of Adelaide through composition and education.

TASMANIA: Stephanie Eslake as founding editor of Cut Common, providing a voice to emerging composers and performers

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