New Christmas carols win classical music awards

Jesuit Christopher Willcock and cartoonist Michael Leunig have taken out a major prize at the 2006 Classical Music Awards for their series of nine new Christmas carols.

The Australian music industry celebrated the most outstanding Australian contemporary classical music achievements on Monday night, Jesuit publication Province Express reports, in the only awards to recognise achievements in the new music scene in this country,

The 2006 Classical Music Awards were presented by APRA and the Australian Music Centre, at the Sydney Theatre, Walsh Bay.

In front of 400 guests, Jesuit Christopher Willcock and Michael Leunig won the award for 'Choral or Vocal Work of the year' for excerpts from Southern Star, performed by the Sydney Chamber Choir and Marshall McGuire.

The catagorie was assessed on the basis of performance activities throughout the previous year and rankings from the composition judging panel.

Southern Star is a series of nine Christmas Carols, in which Chris Willcock worked with cartoonist Michael Leunig, who wrote the text.

A commercial recording of the work is planned for release before Christmas 2007.

Province Express says that the award is "a great honour for Chris."

"It was composed for either adult or children's choir, with harp accompaniment," Chris Willcock told the Express. "It has already received a number of performances and two broadcasts on ABC Classic FM."

Christopher Willcock is one of the world's leading Catholic composers of liturgical music, but also has a wide range of concert compositions to his credit, notably settings of modern poetry.

The Melbourne Chorale appointed Christopher Willcock for 2004 as their first composer-in-residence in 2004. That year they performed two new a cappella pieces, Etiquette with Angels, a setting of a poem by another Australian Jesuit, Andrew Bullen and a setting of the Latin psalm 50, Miserere, which was premiered with well-known settings of the same text by Allegri and Gorecki.

Willcock's Akhmatova Requiem for soprano solo, strings and percussion, was first performed in St Paul's Cathedral, Melbourne in October 2001. This setting of the poem cycle "Requiem" by the great 20th century Russian poet, Anna Akhmatova (1889-1966), prompted a Russian listener to enquire how the composer could have known what Leningrad felt like during the Stalin Terror.

Six songs from the cycle were performed during the 2002 Melbourne Festival. The selection is entitled "Akhmatova Stanzas" and featured Merlyn Quaife, soprano, this time with the Orchestra Victoria Chamber Ensemble under Richard Mills.

Jesuit receives national honour (Province Express, 9/8/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Christopher Willcock SJ
Australian Jesuits
Leunig Tribute website
Michael Leunig - A Celebration (National Library of Australia

Sydney's Portico wins international Catholic music award (CathNews, 7/11/02)

10 Aug 2006