"The new material looks fascinating, utterly new and unlike what I was doing, but in the same kind of mind-stretching tradition.
What was new in 1976 can not also be new in 2012. Thank you for this process of reinvention."
Graham Johnson, Artistic Patron
Unique in the musical landscape of Australia, Songmakers Australia brings together some of the country’s leading singers and instrumentalists in a diverse repertoire comprising some of the pinnacles of chamber music.
Under the artistic patronage of Graham Johnson, founding director of the acclaimed London-based Songmakers Almanac, pianist Andrea Katz teams with soprano Merlyn Quaife, mezzo-soprano Christina Wilson, tenor Brenton Spiteri and bass-baritone Nicholas Dinopoulos in inspired programs that feature a dynamic interplay of song and chamber music.
The ensemble presents a yearly subscription series at the Melbourne Recital Centre, where they have been Local Heroes since their foundation in 2011. They enjoy numerous invitations to perform at leading festivals and recital series Australia-wide (Melbourne Festival, Art Gallery of NSW, Peninsula Summer Music Festival, Art Song Canberra and the Art Gallery of Ballarat) and they are regularly heard nationally in live-to-air broadcasts.
Guest artists include Australia’s leading chamber musicians (among others, pianists Caroline Almonte and Amir Farid, violist Brett Dean, cellists Blair Harris and Howard Penny, and clarinettist David Griffiths). 2012 saw a collaboration with leading contemporary music exponents Syzygy Ensemble for three performances of Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire for the Melbourne Festival.
A strong commitment to contemporary Australian composition has led to the world première performance of Gordon Kerry’s Five Cantos from John Kinsella’s Divine Comedy and the Australian première of Stephen Hough’s Other Love Songs. In 2014, they commissioned a new song cycle for vocal quartet and piano four-hands by Melbourne composer Roger Heagney to an original text by Graeme Ellis.
Merlyn Quaife AM | soprano
A performer of great versatility, the distinguished soprano Merlyn Quaife received an Order of Australia Award in the Queen's Birthday 2013 Honours List for significant service to music. Merlyn continues to perform opera, oratorio, Lieder, chamber music and contemporary music to great acclaim throughout Australia and Europe. Merlyn has appeared with all the State Opera Companies in roles ranging from the bel canto Lucia in Lucia di Lammermoor to the minimalist Chiang Ch'ing in Nixon in China.
She has performed with all the Symphony Australia orchestras, featured in repertoire of every conceivable style from Handel to Ligeti, as well as recorded a number of CDs including Aria for John Edward Eyre by David Lumsdaine which won her a Sounds Australia Award. Of recording labels, she appears on Naxos, Move, Tall Poppies and ABC Classics.
Christina Wilson | mezzo-soprano
Winner of the Australian Singing Competition's Marianne Mathy Award and prize winning graduate of the Canberra School of Music, the Royal Northern College of Music and the National Opera Studio London, mezzo-soprano Christina Wilson has appeared in performances at the Royal Albert Hall, Westminster Abbey, Canterbury Cathedral and in recital at the Wigmore Hall, the Temple Square and the Paris Conservatoire.
With Glyndebourne Festival Opera, Wexford Festival Opera, Belfast Opera and the State Opera of South Australia she has sung the roles of Clitemnestre, Carmen, Cenerentola, Rosina, Cherubino, Dido, Dorabella and in recent years the Handel opera roles of David, Irene, Dejanira and Storgé in performances at the Canberra Playhouse.
Christina is broadcast regularly on ABC Classic FM and appears locally, nationally and internationally in concert and oratorio, including a recent concert tour to France and England with the Flowers of War launch of the ABC Classics Recording A Race against Time.
Brenton Spiteri | tenor
Brenton Spiteri won first prize in the 2012 Herald Sun Aria. He was subsequently a resident artist at Opéra de Lyon, with roles in Le Roi Carotte and L’incoronazione di Poppea. He is a graduate of the University of Melbourne (BA/BMUS, Hons) and was a Melba Opera Trust scholar (2012-14).
He has also been a principal artist for Pinchgut Opera, Sydney Chamber Opera, State Opera
South Australia, Victorian Opera and Melbourne Opera.
He created the role of Ashley Crowther in Fly Away Peter, receiving critical acclaim for his “charismatic warmth and vocal agility,” “vocal virtuosity” and “extraordinary musicality and daring”.
He was runner up in the 2014 Mietta Song Competition, and has performed solo recitals at the Melbourne Recital Centre, Brisbane Town Hall and Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art, in collaboration with Opera Queensland, Ludovico’s Band, Melbourne Art Song Collective, Latitude 37 and Continuo Collective.
More about Brenton here.
Nicholas Dinopoulos | bass-baritone
The young bass-baritone Nicholas Dinopoulos studied at The University of Melbourne with Merlyn Quaife AM and furthered his training at The Opera Studio Melbourne.
A prolific concert artist and recitalist, he is frequently heard in live-to-air broadcasts on ABC Classic FM and 3MBS FM and is a core member of Songmakers Australia under the artistic patronage of Graham Johnson. He recently created the role of The Poet in the world premiere performances of Constantine Koukias’ The Barbarians (Helpmann Award nomination, Best Opera category) for IHOS Opera / MONA FOMA 2012. The 2013 season marked debuts for both Victorian Opera (Melbourne) and Pinchgut Opera (Sydney).
More about Nicholas here.
Andrea Katz | piano & artistic director
A pianist, accompanist and vocal coach of extraordinary versatility, Argentine-born Andrea Katz is equally at home with Chamber Music, German Lieder and Grand Opera. She studied piano with Vlado Perlemuter in Paris, Alexander Tamir in Jerusalem and specialised in the interpretation of German Lieder with Graham Johnson in London.
A prolific recital pianist, she performs regularly with prominent Australian and international singers and ensembles, including a yearly season at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. She is the founder of Songmakers Australia.
Since 2009 she is Director of the Vocal Ensemble at the University of Melbourne Conservatorium of Music.
She has released 2 CDs with soprano Merlyn Quaife, Lest we Forget and Fortune my Foe.
More about Andrea here.