Composer inspired by the tales of Lewis Carroll wins music prize

Rising young Australian composer Holly Harrison is awarded a new composition prize by the Sydney Conservatorium of Music for her work that takes a musical journey into the fantasy world of children’s author Lewis Carroll.

The offer by Sue and Richard Willgoss to fund the Sue W Chamber Music Composition Prize was welcomed by the University of Sydney’s Conservatorium of Music as part of its ongoing interests in supporting female composers to achieve their career aspirations.

Holly Harrison was awarded the $7,000 music prize for her 2017 chamber work Lobster Tales and Turtle Soup that draws inspiration from the tales of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, written by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll.

"I’m absolutely delighted to be the inaugural recipient of this award, which seeks to acknowledge Australian female composers. It is a welcome boost to my creative confidence, and gives me the encouragement to continue composing with increased self-belief for the future," said Holly Harrison.

The judging panel chaired by the Sydney Conservatorium of Music’s Professor Liza Lim praised the young composer for her chamber piece’s "vitality and witty theatrical flair; its sophisticated scoring and stylistic interplay in a jazz idiom".

Holly Harrison sees her recent work as "an amalgam of multiple genres: rock, jazz, hip-hop, metal, pop, blues and funk" that echoes the whimsical characters of Gryphon and the Mock Turtle in the famous children’s story.

Lobster Tales and Turtle Soup was composed for the Chicago-based contemporary music ensemble Eighth Blackbird. The work was premiered during the Australian tour of Eighth Blackbird in February this year, as part of Musica Viva’s 2017 International Concert Season with performances at the Perth International Arts Festival and Adelaide Festival.

Holly Harrison, who currently teaches composition at MLC School in Sydney, is a promising young Australian composer. Over the last few years she has received numerous awards and residencies locally and internationally, and her music has been performed in Australia, Asia, Europe and the USA by a long list of celebrated ensembles and artists.

Upcoming projects in 2018 for the emerging star composer include: a concertino for bassoon and string quartet for Matthew Kneale, 2017 Freedman Classical Fellowship winner, and the Omega Ensemble; a sextet piece for Ensemble Offspring, a children’s work for the Canberra International Music Festival, and a piece for Brisbane-based Kupka’s Piano.

Holly Harrison also plays drum kit and percussion in the improvised rock duo Tabua-Harrison with Joey Tabua on electric guitar, and are expected to release their debut record in 2018.

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