“Four exceptional string players compete this year for the much-coveted Fellowship, generously offered by the Freedman Foundation. An impressive field of candidates, many of whom are already forging successful international careers, could not be whittled down easily.” Roland Peelman
Following a nation-wide search four finalists have been selected to compete for the 2020 Freedman Classical Fellowship which, by chance, includes three musicians based in Victoria, violinist Harry Ward (24), cellists James Morley (23) and Richard Narroway (29) plus NSW violinist Grace Clifford (22).
In any ordinary year the cash prize would be awarded at a deciding concert in the Sydney Opera House but in 2020, the four finalists will compete for the $21,000 cash prize without a live audience in front of the panel of esteemed judges. The 2020 judging panel will include Director of the Canberra International Music Festival Roland Peelman, percussionist and Artistic Director of Ensemble Offspring Claire Edwardes, and Senior Lecturer in Conducting and Opera Studies at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music Dr Stephen Mould.
The life changing prize enables recipients to undertake a proposed creative and career-defining project. The opportunities for the winner have proved invaluable since the first Fellowships were awarded back in 2001 with previous Fellows reading like a Who’s Who of Australian art music including Genevieve Lacey, William Barton, Joseph Tawadros, Claire Edwards and Eugene Uhgetti.
Each year, nine distinguished artists from around Australia nominate Australian classical instrumentalists aged 30 years or under resulting in 16 nominees who become the Fellowship candidates. Each nominee must submit video recordings of their musical performances and the description of a career-building project which they will carry out with the support of the prize.
This year finalists will be assisted by a special mentor, recorder player and Chair of the Australian Music Centre Genevieve Lacey, to lift their project designs to even higher levels. The winner is selected on the basis of the submitted materials, their project proposal and the live performance.
‘We are grateful for the commitment and vision of Kathy and Laurence Freedman of the Freedman Foundation who have not skipped a beat in backing Australia’s creative artists in this extraordinary year”, says organiser Dr Richard Letts, Director of The Music Trust, manager of the Fellowships.
All of the Finalists and Project Descriptions are below:
Grace Clifford (22) was Australian Young Performer of the Year at age 16 in 2014. She is the Adelaide Symphony’s first ever Emerging Artist in Association, performing a concerto in each consecutive season. She has performed concertos with the SSO, MSO, WASO and the Malaysian Philharmonic under Wigglesworth. She tours nationally each year with Selby and Friends and has performed in major US cities. Grace is a graduate of Curtis Music Institute and is currently enrolled at the New England Conservatory in Boston on a Presidential Scholarship. She began tertiary studies at the Sydney Conservatorium and in 2012 took 4th prize in the junior section of the Yehudi Menuhin Competition in Beijing.
Grace: ‘My project reflects my belief in the importance of access to music education and arts programs for all children, and wishes to celebrate the enduring contribution and importance of some of Australia’s historic Schools of the Arts.’
She plans a tour of historic School of Arts buildings in regional towns in NSW, presenting suitable music in a variety of styles, always including and Australian composition. She would like to work with an Australian organisation, giving recitals to raise funds for arts and music programs in underprivileged Australian schools. She would like to commission a five-minute work for solo violin by an Indigenous Australia composer and record the work. If funds remain, she would use them to cover travel costs to meet existing performance engagements with orchestras whose COVID-19 experience has limited their ability to meet these costs.
‘ I would use the experience to push myself to expand my repertoire in the freeing environment of less formal but more intimate settings; to curate programs that I believe in and that embrace composers from the Baroque to the present; to experience again the evolution of one’s playing and understanding over the course of a string of recitals; to help with the ongoing aim I have for my playing to be free-er and more open, more generous, and more comfortable with simplicity and levity in the realisation that profundity and meaning require levity and release to be recognisable; and to realise my belief that meaningful art does not require formality or ultimately exclusion to be experienced and shared.’
James Morley (23) has studied in Adelaide and at the Sydney Conservatorium and is currently enrolled at ANAM. In 2019 he was awarded ANAM’s Outstanding First-Year Prize and won the Audience Choice Award in the ANAM Concerto Competition. He has won other significant awards and has performed as concerto and recital soloist in a number of Australian cities. He is a casual cellist with the MSO, has been principal cello with the Australian Youth Orchestra and last year was a member of the Australian Chamber Orchestra Collective. He is a member of two string quartets and Adelaide early music ensemble Continuo Continuum. He has collaborated closely with many composers, mostly with an electro-acoustic focus. He plans a concert series in 2021 featuring 20th and 21st century works and premieres of works by Australian composers.
James writes: ‘There are two elements to this creative project. The principle component will be the creation of a virtuosic solo cello work, developed and performed by myself in collaboration with long-time associate and composer Johannes MacDonald. This work will include electro-acoustic components, and feature an array of unique extended techniques devised during a period of creative collaboration and instrumental experimentation by myself and the composer. The second element will involve a collaboration with a young Melbourne-based contemporary film-maker in association with Gertrude Contemporary [a Melbourne gallery]. This collaboration will lead to the commissioning of a film in response to the musical work, to be presented in conjunction with a live performance of the new musical work as well as presented in various on-line settings. The Freedman Fellowship would enable the commissioning of the new works and performances at festivals and venues in Australia and overseas.’
Confronting the present challenging circumstances, James, through cross-disciplinary collaboration, wants to explore the relevance of classical music, film and performance. He sees connecting with audiences digitally as vital and his proposed work speaks to that need. He cites his involvement in mixed media work featuring solo cello. A three-year collaboration with young composer Johannes Macdonald resulted in creation of two such works. Concerning the film, he will call on the assistance of Gertrude Contemporary. His experience has shown the value of unorthodox performing spaces and he is committed to finding and utilising them. He already has interest from a number of spaces in Australia and Scandinavia.
Richard Narroway (29) has returned to Australia after ten years overseas and is a member of the faculty at the Melbourne Conservatorium. During that period, he earned degrees from Juillard and Northwestern, with a Doctorate at the University of Michigan, and gave performances across Australia, North America, Europe and Asia in venues such as Kennedy Center, Chicago Symphony Center, Koerner Hall and Sydney Opera House. In 2017 he recorded for commercial release Bach’s Six Cello Suites. He performed Tan Dun’s Cello Concerto at the 2017 Aspen Music Festival, selected as one of the top 12 performances of the season by the Aspen Times. He has won top prizes in the 2010 Stulberg International String Competition, Third Beijing International Cello Competition and Australian Youth Classical Music Competition. He is a passionate advocate of new music with many collaborative projects with composers. He also is committed to community engagement including through substantial projects in the US and Australia.
Richard writes: ‘My goal is to put together a professional recording and national tour of ten works for cello and piano written by ten Australian composers, all inspired in some sense by Australia’s climate, natural environment, and cultural history… For a country as naturally beautiful as ours it can certainly be easy to take it for granted and to forget about the rich cultural history that led us here… The album would be steeped in Sculthorpe’s legacy of writing music that conveys a deeply personal and urgent investment in Australia’s climate and Indigenous history. As such, Sculthorpe’s own Djilile for cello and piano will be the first piece on the album, followed by nine works written by a diverse group of Australian composers still living today.’
Existing works by Edwards, Greenbaum, Paul Stanhope, Hindson and Boyd would be included along with four newly commissioned works. The works would be recorded in Melbourne. The tour, with pianist, would take place over two weeks, in the six state capital cities.
In addition to its intrinsic merit, the project would serve to re-establish Richard Narroway in Australia after the ten year absence. The Australian tour could also serve as a springboard for presenting the program around America and even, possibly, Europe.
Harry Ward (24) has performed as soloist with the Xiamen Philharmonic, Hangzhou Philharmonic, Orguesta Sinfomica de Michoacan and Tasmanian Symphony. In chamber music, he has performed alongside members of the Emerson, Michelangelo, Belcea, Ehnes and Australian String Quartets and in concert with the late Joseph Silverstein. In 2019, he was a member of the Emerging Artists program of the Australian Chamber Orchestra, and is currently part of Musica Viva’s Futuremaker program. He was winner of the Australian National Youth Concerto Competition and a finalist in the ABC Young Performer Awards. He has studied at institutions in Germany and the USA, before that at the Sydney Conservatorium and is currently a student at ANAM.
Inventa, a live video album reflecting on what it means to be a modern day classical musician in a post-Covid era. Repertoire: works by Bach, Scelsi, and a solo improvisation.
Harry writes: ‘I have always been attracted to the idea of an artists’ collective. An incredibly stimulating environment where individuals are brought together for an artistic purpose, where the journey is as important as the result. As such, I do not envisage this collective as strictly symphony orchestra, a quartet or a chamber ensemble, perhaps something more fluid than that. An ensemble that constantly challenges the standard classical musician’s career, a place where improvising is held in high regard and commissions and the classics are of equal importance. The collective should not be defined by repertoire but rather by its approach to the arts in general. It is in these environs where diversity is embraced, where an honest questioning of ourselves is encouraged and truly innovative ideas are free to be explored. To do this with integrity, one must remain grounded and through that expedition achieve a deeper understanding of one another, a stronger sense of community…
‘The format will be a live video/album for two main reasons. Firstly, all too often we are exposed to unrealistic sound audio recordings where music is dissected in small sections and pieced back together to achieve a more “perfect” sounding recording. Personally… I believe this process…can result in a dull sounding performance… The scratch of a note, a spontaneous embellishment of the sound of someone’s breath is in my opinion part of the music. Why have we eliminated these more human moments. That is why the video will be ‘live’ – the audience will gain insight into the behind the scenes moments of rehearsals, the back and forth discussions between musicians, the decision making. ‘Here is where the art lies, so often unseen.’