Michael Duke, John Woolford (Wulff Scherchen) and Lyle Chan. Photo by Paul Woolford.

Update Jan 2017: ABC Classic FM has broadcast this work for the second time. The replay can be heard here until Feb 14, 2017.

Update Nov 2016: The broadcast of the entire concert can be heard on ABC Classic FM’s website until Dec 22. Click here to listen.

On September 22, 2016, the Queensland Symphony Orchestra and Brisbane Festival present the world-premiere of an orchestral song cycle called Serenade for Tenor, Saxophone and Orchestra (“My Dear Benjamin”). The respective booking pages are here and here.

I am tremendously grateful to not just the orchestra and festival but also the soloists and conductor – Andrew Goodwin (tenor), Michael Duke (saxophone) and Paul Kildea (conductor) – for their belief in this work and the commitment and all that it takes to learn a major new work lasting nearly 40 minutes.

I am also indebted to the Britten-Pears Foundation for their approval to proceed with the world-premiere performances and the Woolford family for their trust, support and assistance.

During January of 2015 – summer vacation in Australia – I read a book that had been sitting on my book shelf for about 10 years. It was John Bridcut’s Britten’s Children. I had bought it because I’d been collecting books on Britten. Like Shostakovich, Britten was one of these composers whose music I was curious about because I did not automatically like it, and I wondered if it could be an acquired taste.

So I read this brilliant book and discovered there were in fact two significant romances in Britten’s life. His relationship with Peter Pears is very well known, even held up as an early example of an openly gay couple when being gay was actually illegal in the United Kingdom. But just about no one knew of his first relationship, with a young German man named Wulff Scherchen.

Wulff was the son of the conductor Hermann Scherchen, who had premiered so many masterpieces of his time like the Violin Concerto of Alban Berg. In June 1934 they were all at the festival in Florence of the International Society for Contemporary Music, little Wulff, 13 (nearly 14), tagging along his father. Britten, 21, and Wulff became fast friends, even sharing a macintosh raincoat one day in Siena when rain started.
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String Quintet (The Holidays)

by lylechan on May 1, 2016

A 50th birthday present for dear Stefan Duwe, violist of the incomparable Acacia Quartet, here joined by Stefan’s old teacher from Germany, Emile Cantor.

String Quintet “The Holidays” is in three sections:

• A Swing Band New Year –
• Birthday Serenade (incorporating Hoffstetter’s Andante Cantabile) –
• Tipitina (incorporating “O Holy Night” arranged and copyright WG Snuffy Walden, Randy Kerber, Allyn Rose)

Full program note to come.


Love is always born (Michael Leunig)

October 24, 2015

[Update December 2015: the above recording was made by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation at the City Recital Hall concert in November. My thanks to producer Don Bate and engineer Matthew Dewey.] The wonderful Song Company and its artistic director Roland Peelman will premiere a new vocal piece of mine, Love is always born, in its […]

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Wind Farm Music, Dedicated to Tony Abbott

August 11, 2015

[update Sept 2016: a video of Estivo Trio playing this work in Sydney] __________ Last month Julian Burnside and I were chatting at the Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition, and I realised he was sizing me up for an unusual commission. Julian said, “Normally when I commission a piece, I give the composer a completely free […]

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Double Double Bass

May 3, 2015

My lovely friends Kees Boersma and Kirsty McCahon, a sublime husband-and-wife duo who are respectively Principal Double Bass of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra, will perform a short piece of mine called Double Double Bass at their concert Bass Extravaganza. See this Calendar Entry for concert details. The unusual concert features a reading of […]

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Untitled (Thomas Brand gewidmet) for String Quartet

May 2, 2015

Update, June 2015: The following recording was made at Australia Hall on May 28, which was piece’s second performance. My gratitude to Fine Music 102.5 FM for permission to share the recording and of course Acacia Quartet for the heartfelt performance. On 23 and 28 May, my dear friends the Acacia Quartet will give the […]

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Untitled (Dec 2014) for Orchestra

May 2, 2015

Update, July 2015: The following tracks are from the live recording made at the world premiere concert. Following this performance, the middle section “Sea of Flowers” became the most-requested moment, so I have excerpted it to be played and heard on its own. You can hear its original context by listening to the entire “Untitled […]

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In September (from AIDS Memoir Quartet)

May 15, 2014

For the past 2 years I have been writing a string quartet fleshed out from the sketches I wrote while I was an AIDS activist in the 1990s. The music has now been recorded by the incomparable Acacia Quartet and released digitally on ClassicsOnline, iTunes and a myriad of other online stores. And though various excerpts of […]

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Smoke Weather Stone Weather

April 30, 2014

In 2013 I received 2 grants from the Australia Council. One was to compose Chaconne for Voices and Saxophone, and the other was to create this unusual set of ten bagatelles for the unusual group The NOISE, a string quartet that usually plays its own fully-improvised compositions but decided to start working with composers as […]

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Chaconne for Voices and Saxophone

August 16, 2013

Photo: Lisa Tomasetti On 24 & 25 August 2013, the Sydney Philharmonia Choir, Michael Duke, saxophonist and Brett Weymark, conductor will give the world premiere of this work. I’m so grateful to the Philharmonia and to the Australia Council for commissioning this work, and to all the choristers, Michael and Brett for the months of […]

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