A young Melbourne choir teacher has won the inaugural Archbishop’s Prize for New Composers for choral music set to a much-loved poem by the late Les Murray.
Timothy Mallis, 23, teaches singers in the Australian Boys Choir and is a choir director and organist at St Bartholomew’s Anglican Church in Burnley.
He beat 20 other young composers aged 18-35 to take out the $2500 first prize plus flights to Sydney to collect it. His choral piece based on lyrics from Animal Nativity will be performed at two Christmas concerts at St Mary’s Cathedral on Friday 13 December.
The cathedral’s director of music Thomas Wilson said the entrants set a very high standard. “It was wonderful to see the way so many composers responded to Les Murray’s evocative text, and the variety of modes of expression the text inspired,” he said.
Mr Mallis said he was surprised and greatly honoured to receive the award for his piece written especially for the cathedral’s choir and its organ. “When you’re composing you hear the piece all in your own head and I’m quite excited that I’m going to hear it performed in the space for which it’s intended,” he said.
He said his piece was a blend of traditional and modern influences with an “Australian flavour”. “It’s a great encouragement to receive recognition like this, so early into my career”, he said.
What attracted me to the competition was the quintessentially Australian poem of Les Murray, capturing an Australian Christmas and to have your work performed at a venue on the scale of St Mary’s Cathedral is also a great honour for a young composer.”
The second prize of $1000 went to 24-year-old Lachlan McDonald who also teaches with the Australian Boys Choir and is director of music at St John’s Anglican parish in East Malvern in Melbourne.
Robert Van Gend, a 25-year-old violin and philosophy teacher from Picton, won the third prize of $500. The former Campion College student said he had a special love of Les Murray’s work. “It honours the gift of creation in rural Australia and then recognises that the whole source of life is ultimately found in the Christ child,” Mr Van Gend said.
The internationally-recognised poet and mentor died in April and Archbishop Anthony Fisher launched the competition in August to showcase the talents of young, unpublished composers across Australia and honour the contribution the Church has made historically to the arts.
“I personally chose the poem by Les Murray to honour this inspirational poet who died this year and contributed so much to the arts in Australia and had such a strong Catholic faith”, he said.