2023 Commissions

Sally Whitwell

Sally  Whitwell photo
Award winning musician Sally Whitwell maintains a busy freelance career as pianist performer, conductor, composer and educator from her base in Sydney, Australia. 


Sally is very active as a conductor, composer and accompanist in choral music. In 2015 she has enjoyed an extensive tour of China, Hong Kong and Inner Mongolia with Sydney Children's Choir, with whom she regularly works. She also presented at the International Federation of Choral Music World Choral Expo in Macau in November and is currently enjoying her first subscription season as Music Director of Sydney based community chamber choir Coro Innominata. Her choral and vocal ensemble compositions have been performed by Juice vocal ensemble, Gondwana Choirs, VOX (Sydney Philharmonia Choirs' youth ensemble), Moorambilla Voices, Leichhardt Espresso Chorus, Luminescence, Hunter Singers and the Woden Valley Youth Choir.


As a solo recording artist, Sally has four albums to her name. Her debut album Mad Rush: solo piano music of Philip Glass  won her the 2011 ARIA for Best Classical Album.  Her sophomore album The Good, the Bad and the Awkward is a truly unique compilation of film music where she played not only piano but toy piano, harpsichord, recorder and melodica. All Imperfect Things; solo piano music of Michael Nyman won the 2013 ARIA Award for Best Classical Album as well as Best Engineer for ABC Classics very own tonmeister Virginia Read, the first time that a woman has ever won this award.   Her most recent release I was flying is a collection of her own compositions in the art song, choral and chamber music genres, which enjoyed five weeks in the top ten of the ARIA Core Classical Charts, was nominated for the 2015 ARIA Award for Best Classical Album.


On the morning of 2 March 2020, I finished writing the first draft of this song. It was the same morning that the New South Wales Rural Fire Service announced that for the first time since July 2019, the state was free of active bush and grade fires.

It was eerily serendipitous timing as this song is all about next steps. It's about drawing on our collective experience and knowledge to make the right decisions for the future of our world. We have now more detailed information about the effects of climate change than we've ever had, thanks to a knowledgeable community of experts whom we can really trust. However we are somewhat crippled by the rampant anti-intellectualism so prevalent in our society. There's a kind of illogical fear and suspicion of highly educated people, and when that fear is manipulated by powerful people who are invested in the status quo, principally by big business and governments, our community is led into a kind of culture of distrust, resulting in a frankly criminal lack of action. The rhetoric of mass fear is hard to fight, but for our collective future we need to fight back.

To that end, I'm contributing my own little piece of rhetoric here. And I'm thrilled to be articulating it through the perfect musical instrument for such expressions, a massed choir. The unique power of the first person plural, of the choral voice, of #WeToo as opposed to #MeToo, is something I am really trying to harness in my creative practice as a songwriter right now. As we have witnessed right across the world through grassroots movements like Fridays ForFuture and Extinction Rebellion, people care about our planet and want to shout out about it. And as every choir nerd knows, singing is stronger than shouting, it's a sound that cuts through. So let's really make some noise!

Paul Jarman

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Paul Jarman is a widely acclaimed Australian composer, performer, musical director and educator. Paul is most well known as a lyricist and composer of choral music, a world music multi instrumentalist, and a facilitator of community inspired collaborations.

Paul has written over 200 commissioned works for ensembles, festivals and events including Gondwana Voices, Sydney Children’s Choir, Birralee Voices, The Song Company, Boston City Singers, Rafiki Youth Choir, The Australian Boy’s Choir, The Hunter singers, Department of Education, Woden Valley Youth Choir and many more. His unique blend of melody and timeless poetry celebrates the human endeavour and has captured the imagination of singers and audiences worldwide. He has been commissioned to write music about some of the most inspiring people of our time including Jessica Watson, Terry Fox, Helen Keller, Ernest Shackleton, Aung San Suu Kyi, Pemulwuy and Mary MacKillop among countless others. In 2010 his piece for the 40th Anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King Jnr was performed for President Barack Obama in the White House. Paul has also written and performed music for events in the Western Front, including a premier under the Menin Gate in Ypres and the D-Day 60th Anniversary in Normandy. He has toured as a resident conductor/performer with a variety of choirs to France, England, Germany, Austria, Italy, China, Belgium, Czech Republic, Canada, New Zealand, USA and Switzerland and he conducts choral events all over Australia.

Luke Byrne

Luke  ByrneLuke Byrne is an international composer, musical director and pianist currently based in London.Recent commissions include Earthrise, Capricorn and Desert Sea for Sydney Philharmonia, Storm Bird, Buruwan Elegy and Birinyi for Gondwana Indigenous Children’s Choir with the Australian Chamber Orchestra, Where Sails Once Flew for Adelaide Chamber Singers and The Church at Auvers for Voices of Birralee. Luke arranged the national anthems for the 2015 Netball World Cup and in 2012 was composer-in-residence for Sydney Children’s Choir.

In 2018, Luke’s musical Between the Sea and Sky was selected for the New York Musical Festival where it won awards including Best Musical and Outstanding Music.

Luke is also a musical director in theatre, his credits include The Harp in the South, Muriel’s Wedding and Chimerica (Sydney Theatre Company), The Events for Sydney Festival/Belvoir/Malthouse, Hamlet (Belvoir), The Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie (Belvoir/Sydney Festival), Big Fish (Hayes Theatre), and The World’s Wife (Melbourne Theatre Company).


I studied the poetry of William Butler Yeats in high school and was always drawn the melancholy and mystery of his work. It also stirred my Irish ancestral blood, a heritage that has given me more than just pale skin and a surname that people struggle to spell or pronounce. When searching for a text to be sung by a whole choir of high school boys I stumbled upon an unpublished poem of Yeats’ that had only been unearthed after his death. The Watch-Fire was subsequently published in the Poetry Foundation magazine and accompanied by an article contextualising this early poem, believed to have been written in the early 1890s:

            The cataloging brought to light many remarkable items... One of the most interesting of these is the text     of the poem “The Watch-Fire”, important for its historical associations... [It] was undoubtedly rejected as 

    a youthful experiment... “The Watch-Fire” has the themes of nocturnal vigilance, the need for faith and         courage in a crucial nationalist period, and a subdued but metaphorically insistent call to arms.

                                                            [C.H Mahony & E. O’Shea, January 1980]

The Watch-Fire was commissioned by Voices of Birralee for the Pemulwuy National Male Voices Festival 2023. It’s dedicated to Paul Holley, a conductor I’ve had the privilege of working with many times who has championed my music and been a mentor not just to me but to thousands of young singers across Australia.

Emma Dean

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Emma Dean is an internationally acclaimed musician, creativity coach, performer, writer, composer, arranger, dreamer and choir mama based in Meanjin/Brisbane, Australia. 

Passionate about the magical world where music and storytelling collide, Emma has released over ten original EPs, albums and soundtracks, played lead roles in theatre shows such as Cabaret and The Tempest, and toured her shows nationally and internationally including performances on Off-Broadway and Edinburgh Fringe.


She has also written and arranged music for the Emmy Award winning kid's TV show Bluey and is currently music director for Rainbow Bop - an all-girl puppet band for kids.


When Emma is not on stage or coaching, she can be found writing choral arrangements for choirs and musicians, including John Farnham, Kate Ceberano, Katie Noonan and Glenn Shorrock (Little River Band). She is absolutely thrilled to have been asked by Paul Holley and Voices Of Birralee to arrange ‘Leave The Light On’ for Pemulwuy! National Male Voice Festival.


A passionate advocate for the magical healing qualities of group singing, Emma proudly leads a colourful community choir in Brisbane called Cheep Trill who she considers to be her extended family.



Peter Ingram

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Peter Ingram is a noted conductor of school, university and community choirs throughout Australia. He is a graduate of the Queensland Conservatorium of Music and Florida State University (U.S.A.) where he gained his master’s degree in choral conducting under the guidance of Rodney Eichenberger and Andre Thomas. Previously the conductor of various choirs at both the Queensland Conservatorium of Music (Griffith University) and the University of Queensland, he currently conducts two choirs as part of the acclaimed community arts organization Voices of Birralee: young adult ensemble Resonance of Birralee (co-conductor) and project-based adult choir Birralee Recycled.


Peter is Head of Music at Brisbane Grammar School where he directs several choirs including the Grammarphones which, in 2018, were place second in the Youth Choir section of the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod where Peter was awarded the prize for the most outstanding conductor. He is a long-serving committee member of the Australian National Choral Association (ANCA) at both state and national levels, serving as national president for three years and president of the Queensland Chapter for five years. He was chair of the organising committee for the ANCA national conference Choralfest in 2017. He is in demand as a guest conductor, adjudicator, clinician and workshop leader at various choral events throughout the country.

SEE BETTER is based on a story shared by Jagera man Ben Wilson. He explains that Spring Hill in Brisbane was traditionally a gathering place for First Nations people from Southeast Queensland. It was an important place for learning, particularly for men. The elders would take boys up the hill where they could BETTER SEE the surrounding land. They could show the boys where different facets of their loves would happen (eg fishing, hunting, conducting ceremony etc.) It has always fascinated me that today the tradition of learning in this location continues at Brisbane Grammar School and Brisbane Girls Grammar School. The tradition of men gathering together to learn has also continued through the Pemulwuy! National Male Voice Festival with males from all around Australia coming together to sing. The lyrics of this song celebrate this special, even sacred, location and urge us all to come together to learn from each other and to share our stories with each other. This piece is dedicated to the men of the Pemulwuy! National Male Voice Festival 2023 and the young men of Brisbane Grammar School.

Will Brown

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Will Brown is a Brisbane-based composer, conductor, pianist and educator. As well as teaching piano and classroom music, he directs the choral program at St Laurence’s College, South Brisbane and is in demand as a composer, arranger, accompanist and conductor. Will’s compositions are popular choices for ensembles and conductors who enjoy new Australian works. They have been performed widely ​in Australia and as far as York Minster and Southwark Cathedral in the United Kingdom and at large choral events such as Boyz Bizz, Mackay Choral Festival, Pemulwuy! and KMEIA National Conference.

‘Let Your Song Be Delicate’ is a poem Will was recommended to set music to. He was struck by the beauty of its tender imagery. It is this tenderness that is reflected in the word setting and melodic choices in the piece as well as in the piano. To me, the ultimate meaning of this piece is to enjoy a life full of beauty and peacefulness. He hopes that you will experience such things during the piece.

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