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changing of the torch

January 27, 2019

I have recently come back from directing the Young Composer School at Gondwana Voices National Choral School, a role that I have relished as it combined the paradox of creativity with the responsibility of quality choral education.

Creatives who are choral composers are always asked to straddle the line between imaginative possibility and what choirs are able to do for them. Write a work that is too specialised, and only the very best choirs with well-developed technical ability can perform them. Write a work that is too juvenile and simple, and choirs will find it unsatisfying on both counts. Even more than for instrumental writing, choral composition requires the composer to write as both a creative and an educator. 

Write a piece that resonates with choristers of a certain age-bracket and ability, enhances their vocal development, and expands their performance confidence + sound, and you will have a sustainable and well-loved piece of repertoire which has the power to affect choristers long after the final performance of the piece.

And this is where I find complete joy; trying to find that sweet spot. I write like an educator, always looking for words that will stick, and what feels good on the voice, and how to create a choral framework whereby a developing choir will feel and sound good performing my pieces. I also seek to extend and develop quality vocal technique but in the “Mary-Poppins-spoon-full-of-sugar” kind of way, through embedding choral technique in a way that it is unnoticed until you have reaped the rewards of it through rehearsing and performing an engaging piece of music.

And this is what I have spent that last week mentoring and teaching to the young composers at Gondwana NCS.

I had an incredibly nostalgic realisation during the choral school; that when I was 25 years old, someone took a chance on me as a young composer. That someone was the artistic director of Sydney Children’s Choir, Lyn Williams, who saw something worth developing in my writing and in my love of choral education. Now, at age 37, I realise that my time for looking for mentors is being overlapped by actually doing the mentoring myself. Rather than cold-calling for mentorship, I am now cold-calling to mentor. When I see that spark of determination, uniqueness of voice, a love of the voice, dedication to developing as a composer, resiliency, and a talent that resonates with my own creative values, it is my job and privilege to offer to nurture that talent.

And so I did this. There were two stand-out composers in my small group of 7, and I wrote emails acknowledging the manner with which they embraced the composing school, their quality of work, and their ability to collaborate in a healthy and productive way whilst still maintaining their creative voice.

It’s now my responsibility to look for places where I can shine the torch on the brilliant and innovative young talent coming through. And what an honour to look at things so differently, whilst still having the chance to work as a creative myself.

It feels enlightening to be holding the torch and illuminating the journey from the other side!

the flame tree project

January 2, 2019

I am writing the commissioned work for the inaugural Flame Tree Project for 2019. I am incredibly lucky that I can choose to accept this commission based entirely on the creative aspect of the work without worrying about payment, due to being a full-time secondary music teacher.

I would like to see this project continue in 2020, and to give the opportunity for a young, up-and-coming composer to engage with this wonderful school community, and to compose a work for them. Through this campaign, I would also like to acknowledge the optimism, bravery, and dedication of music teacher, Kate Whitworth, and the students of Minnamurra Primary School in New South Wales, Australia…who have no idea about this yet, so SHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

This fundraising campaign is to raise the honorarium for the 2020 composer, preferable a young composer establishing their creative voice and keen to work with children’s choirs, and to allow this project to go ahead for a second year.

The link for the Flame Tree GoFundMe campaign can be found below. Thank you to all of you for your curiosity and interest in the project, and in taking the time to read about it. And to those of you who decide to donate, my sincere thanks to you on behalf of the the 2020 Flame Tree Project young composer.

With appreciation,


The Flame Tree Project:

One of my pieces, “Festival Yubilate”, made it to the 2018 Llangollen Eisteddfod in Wales!

Performed by the Brisbane Grammar School Grammarphones, conducted by the always excellent Peter Ingram, where they placed 2nd in the Open Youth Section.

SUCH a thrill for me to hear the TTBB version performed so well!

AND by a choir who is amazingly our namesake!



August 19, 2018

seen completely: choral composition

April 20, 2017

Last year, I had the great honour + delight of writing for the Hillcrest Christian College’s choir, conducted by the fabulous Jenny Moon, who works choral wonders! 🙂 They commissioned me to write a modern reworking of Psalm 139 for their senior SATB choir. These are the very first set of words I wrote, unpolished, and unedited. When I read them, I can see my train of thought and I love the incomplete rawness and unfinished beauty of them.

You see me completely for all that I am

You walk beside me in repose

You hold the hand of my heart and I the other

You know my travels, my will, my peace, my fire

My thoughts flowing forth

And you carry me still

You love me still

There are days I wish to walk alone

Selfishly, independently

Believing myself to be free

But is there anything more free than your love?

And still you walk with me, without judgement

No matter the turn of light, the colour of my heart

You are the same

You see all, there is nowhere I can hide

Not even in my darkness

Not even in my light

You see me for all that I am

And it is so

There is no freedom more free

Or more beautiful

Than to be seen completely

the creative process

April 23, 2016 1 Comment


It’s always the same, that stunned, irrational feeling that overwhelms me when I begin a new composition.

Now clearly, I love composing, because I keep going back for more, and I keep saying “yes” to choral commissions. And there are moments of pure synergy where I don’t even know where the notes come from, and how the words connect with their final sounds.

But the thought that reverberates in my head EVERY SINGLE TIME I start writing?

How did I ever do this?! How did I EVER write what came before this one?!


What came before seems…extraordinary. Insurmountable. Unmatchable. Unfathomable. That SO MANY PLANETS lined up all at once for the sake of that particular choral composition. And I listen to my past compositions, head propped in my arms, with my stomach doing flips at my current commissions.

And I actually LOVE the creative process. I love the uncertainty, and I love getting down on my hands and knees, up to my elbows in notes and ideas, sounds and nuances, phrases and colourful snippets of harmony…I love playing in the puzzle pieces.

But the start is torturous, even for a realistic optimist like me.


So this is how it goes. I sit at my piano, blank manuscript pad propped up on the music stand, in a fierce face-off. It’s a desolate wasteland. Nothing works. Every possible harmony or phrase I test out, I have already heard before. I’m surrounded by half chewed-up musical ideas, and metaphorical tumbleweed.

Then I play with words…sounds of words, lyrics, ideas put together in different combinations. It’s just as agonising.

Eventually, I conclude that I have just have to make a haphazard, totally rubbish start. I pull up a Word document, vomit every conceivable idea onto the page, and press save without a backward glance. I do the same with my ideas at the piano onto my phone, and the manuscript onto Sibelius.

I press save in the hope that, like good wine, it improves with time and being left alone in a dark place. Sadly, it never does. But my eyes + mind see different things, and my ears hear what I couldn’t hear previously.


A tiny snippet of an idea arrives; a shy little phrase, an errant, unexpected harmony that I fall in love with.

Suddenly, I have a little row of seedling musical ideas, then I find myself in the middle of a garden of sounds, pruning + shaping entire pages of my composition, encouraging a particular phrase one way, cutting back one to its core in the next. I am engrossed. I don’t look up, and an hour passes easily. More and more notes fall into place, and I start to embody the personality of the piece, and choir who will be singing it. Nuances are being discovered, and shaped.

Then there is the day, some time later, when I stand up, dazed from the intense work, stretch my weary arms + shoulders, and find that I have a Piece of Music, a Brand New Composition…a Living Entity.


I know every sound + word in that piece. I know its spirit.

I take a breath…because now, in all its perfect completeness, having it loved it so intimately + knowing its every colour…I have to let it go.


It’s an extraordinary process.

I am doing some edits of my composition, “Migaloo”, for the Public Primary Schools Festival of Music 2017 repertoire. With equal parts necessity + ridiculousness, I needed to hear a choir performing my piece live, and not the Sibelius version, so I hopped onto youtube to see what I could find…and found Junior Gondwana Voices, the amazing Jem Harding, and the inimitable Harley Mead.

Sending a thought out to the heavens for Harley.

You’re being thought of today.


April 20, 2016

ballad of 16…the sound….

Conductor: Christie Anderson

Pianist: Karl Geiger

Choir: Young Adelaide Voice First Concert Choir

Performance: September 2012

May 9, 2015

ballad of 16

May 9, 2015

a98dda0d35491660af60daec30a959c9This piece was composed with the Young Adelaide Voices First Concert Choir of 2011. Together, we explored our 3-year-old, 6-year-old, 9-year-old, 11-year-old, 13-year-old, and 16-year-old selves. We shared disgusting stories, poignant memories, tender + beautiful pockets of time, and cringe-worth moments. We laughed until our bellies hurt at all the ridiculous things we said, or did, in our great wisdom at each of those milestones. And then came the words for “Ballad of 16,” and I knew I had something special. Words which resonated with fragility and strength, beauty and hope. Enough learning and life-experience to grow, but not so many knocks as to render us hopeless.

Here are the lyrics to the piece we created together…


Ballad of 16

see me

do you see who I see?

perfectly composed and written, perfectly scored?


and do you see me, and hear me, brand new

many incarnations of the “me” in front of you?

I’m so different yet so much the same

do you recognise me, and not just by name?

though I may be older, and wiser

I’m changing every day


still so much to wonder

still so much to say


skating through life, sometimes bruising

having it all, sometimes losing

taking it back, piece by piece

hold responsibility

everything new and surprising

with every move, spirit rising

know all of me

learn to love


and do you see me, and hear me, brand new

many incarnations of the “me” in front of you?

I’m so different yet so much the same

do you recognise me, and not just by name?

though I may be older, and wiser

I’m changing every day


every day

I see I’m growing every day

I see that I am beautiful

I can recognise my own spirit

my heart is the one and the same.


a snippet of the score…

Ballad 16

my romance…a snippet of the sound file

My Romance; The Lyrics. 

My romance doesn’t have to have a moon in the sky

My romance doesn’t need a blue lagoon standing by

No month of May, no twinkling stars

No hideaway, no soft guitars

My romance doesn’t need a castle rising in Spain

Nor a dance with a constantly surprising refrain

Wide awake, I can make my most fantastic dreams come true

My romance doesn’t need a thing but you.


My Romance; The Arrangement.

I’ve decided to open with an SSAA unaccompanied statement of the song. It’s simple in its design, but challenging in the chords and how I’ve voiced them…lots of colour contained in each chord, almost as if the person intoning the song is full of emotion, but saying these beautiful poignant words with tender poignancy.

The second section is a Bossa Nova with a slinky, seductive lead-in passage into the main tune. I hope Chanterelle will enjoy the fat, luscious triplets, delicious minor 7th chords, and the up-beat suave of this second half of the arrangement!

The recording, once again in the dulcet tones of Sibelius 7, plays up until the beginning of the improv. solos.


April 19, 2015