Featured Composer: Iain Grandage

Photo by Pia Johnson.

Photo by Pia Johnson.

Iain Grandage is a music director, cellist and composer of scores for theatre, dance and the concert hall. He has been Composer-in-Residence with the WA Symphony Orchestra, the Youth Orchestras of Australia and Black Swan Theatre Company, Musician-in-Residence at the UWA School of Music, and recipient of the Ian Potter Emerging Composer Fellowship.

He has won Helpmann and Green Room Awards for theatre scores, which include The Blue Room, The Book of Everything, Cloudstreet, In the Next Room, Lawn, Little Match Girl, The Odyssey, Optimism, Plainsong, Secret River, True West and Vamp for companies including Co.B Belvoir, Malthouse Theatre, MTC, STC and Black Swan Theatre. His works for dance include scores for the award-winning Lawn (Splinter Group), Remember Me (DanceNorth with the Townsville Chamber Music Festival) and Drover’s Wives (Steamworks/PIAF2006).

Iain’s concert works have been performed by the ACO, Brodsky String Quartet, Australian String Quartet, Australian Brass Quintet, Sara Macliver, Craig Ogden, Miki Tsunoda and choirs and orchestras around Australia. He has won APRA/AMC awards for a number of works and has completed orchestral arrangements for Tim Minchin, Ben Folds, the Whitlams, Augie March, Tim Rogers, Sinead O’Connor, Tiddas and Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu. Iain has worked as musical supervisor and arranger for the Black Arm Band on their award-winning performances Hidden Republic, dirtsong and Seven Songs¬ and recently collaborated with Steve Pigram, Mark Atkins and Richard Tognetti on the ACO’s multimedia presentation The Reef.

As a performer, he plays in the chamber ensemble Overlander with William Barton, Claire Edwardes and Melanie Robinson, and has moonlighted with the Brodsky Quartet, Australian Art Orchestra, Australian Chamber Orchestra and Topology. He regularly performs on Piano with cabaret überdiva Meowmeow, and was Music Director of Meow’s collaboration with musicians from ANAM – Wunderschön. He was music director and arranger for Eddie Perfect’s Songs from the Middle with the Brodsky Quartet and ANAM, broadcast on ABC in 2011, and recently conducted all the State Symphony Orchestras as part of the Tim Minchin vs the Symphony Orchestra 2012 tour.

He is currently working on commissions for Victorian Opera, the Adelaide, Tasmanian and WA Symphony Orchestras.

Iain Grandage's piece, The Keep, was premiered in PLEXUS: Pantheon on 2 April 2014 at the Salon, Melbourne Recital Centre, as part of the Metropolis New Music Festival.

The Keep (2014)

The composer writes: “I grew up in Western Australia, a first generation Australian of English parentage – a pale ginger in a sea of sunned faces. The world of my youth was filled with dunes and beaches, boulder-clambering and desert trips, and whilst these places were mine to experience, the stories contained within them weren’t. Having since had the privilege of working extensively with indigenous Australians and seeing this inescapable connection between country and culture first hand, I find myself seeking my own family’s ancient stories from within my Anglo-Celtic heritage.

So it is that I was drawn to Tim Winton’s The Riders, a novel which, with the help of Victorian Opera, Malthouse Theatre and librettist Alison Croggon am currently using as the basis for an opera. The legendary Riders of the title are central to many myths in ancient Europe, including Scully’s Celtic dreaming – a dreaming that is, in Winton’s language, desert Irish. These Riders first appear to Scully (the novel’s central character) as he wanders below an old ruined castle’s Keep. They and their worldly purpose is wonderfully evoked in this poem from Chamber Music by James Joyce:

      I hear an army charging upon the land,
          And the thunder of horses plunging, foam about their knees:
      Arrogant, in black armour, behind them stand,
          Disdaining the reins, with fluttering whips, the charioteers.
      They cry unto the night their battle-name:
          I moan in sleep when I hear afar their whirling laughter.
      They cleave the gloom of dreams, a blinding flame,
          Clanging, clanging upon the heart as upon an anvil.
      They come shaking in triumph their long, green hair:
          They come out of the sea and run shouting by the shore.
      My heart, have you no wisdom thus to despair?
          My love, my love, my love, why have you left me alone?

This work, The Keep is based on material from this first meeting scene, and also contains a quote of the folk song Raglan Road which Winton sows throughout his novel. It is written for and dedicated to PLEXUS, a new ensemble that contains three of the finest musicians I have ever had the pleasure of making music with.”

© Iain Grandage 2014