Featured Composer: Kevin March


Kevin March is an award-winning, Melbourne-based composer, whose works have been performed internationally by ensembles including the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra Victoria, Ironwood Ensemble, Halcyon, The Arcko Ensemble, the ASTRA Chamber Music Society, Chronology Arts, Brave New Works, and The New York City Opera.

He has received grants and commissions from Arts Victoria, Ars Musica Australis and The Sydney Conservatorium of Music, as well as several ensembles. He is the recipient of the Dorian La Gallienne Prize for Ophélie, and received first prize in the 3MBS National Composer Awards for his orchestral work Kambarang. His works have been featured in the Metropolis New Music Festival and the 7th Sydney Biennale.

Kevin is currently working on his first full-length opera, Les Feluettes (Lilies), commissioned jointly by Opéra du Montréal and Pacific Opera (2016 premiere).

Most recently his 40-minute piano cycle Catalogue des papillions and his newest song-cycle Mythweaver were performed by Stefan Cassomenos and Judith Dodsworth in a concert titled Sappho's Butterflies for the 2014 Metropolis New Music Festival. Numerous performances of his works have been broadcast on ABC and 3MBS radio. Most recently a performance of Ouvre-moi la Porte, commissioned for Neal Perez de Costa and Daniel Yeadon, was broadcast on ABC Classic FM's Sunday Live and in 2011 Kevin was one of three composers featured, along with excerpts from his song-cycle Mythweaver, in the ABC National documentary Modern Muses: The Greeks and New Music.

Songs from Mythweaver are soon to be published in Voices of Australia II, a second volume of Australian art song published byWirripang. Sea-blue Bird, his most recent work composed for Halcyon's 15th anniversary concerts series Kinfisher, has been recorded by Halcyon and will be released on CD later this year.

Kevin holds a Master's and Doctorate from the University of Michigan where his principal composition instructors were William Bolcom, William Albright, Michael Daugherty and Curtis Curtis-Smith. In Australia he has been mentored by or has studied under notable Australian composers Richard Mills, Gerard Brophy, Maria Grenfell, and Paul Stanhope. He also currently teaches composition and music theory at the University of Melbourne Conservatorium of Music.

Kevin March's new work Un Petite Sonate was premiered in PLEXUS: Panorama on 21 September 2015 at the Salon, Melbourne Recital Centre.

Un Petite Sonate (2015)

I was very excited when PLEXUS asked me to write a trio for their 2015 season. I knew Monica and Philip’s work and I had worked with Stefan on the premiere of my large piano cycle Catalogue des Papillions and my song cycle Mythweaver (with soprano Judith Dodsworth) last year. I knew writing for them and working with them would be a joy.  I was also happy to write again for this particular group of instruments. There was a bit of nostalgia in turning again to this ensemble as my first paid commission was for a trio of the same make up.

There’s something uniquely attractive about writing for a clarinet, violin, and piano trio.  It’s like writing for a micro orchestra.  Essentially you have a highly distilled string section (violin), a wind section (clarinet) and a percussion section (piano). I filled the piece with many of the colours, techniques, gestures, and textures I like most from each instrument.  For example long singing lines and chunky “woody” double stops in the violin, rippling arpeggios and tremolos in the clarinet, and a piano part which demonstrates how effective only a few notes at a time can be.

I wrote this trio while I was completing my first full-scale opera Les Feluettes. In turning to the trio I wanted to work on something completely different, something utterly unlike the opera. I sought out short, condensed forms and straight-forward presentation of materials with little development.  The last movement, for example, consists primarily of only one chord re-voiced in different ways to give the illusion that the harmony is changing. Though only 9 minutes long, the work contains three complete, distinct movements performed without break: I. Une petite charme, II. Une petite scherzo; and III. Extase.

– Kevin March