Christopher Sainsbury - composer, arranger, songwriter and guitarist
Christopher Sainsbury has made a sustained contribution to Australian music basing himself in both professional and community music arenas for many years. As an Australian composer with a focus on
interpreting his local region rather than a generic Australian sound, Sainsbury specifically seeks out influences from his “aural homelands” of the Central Coast and Sydney and references these in
his music. As a member of the Aboriginal community of Sydney and the Central Coast, Sainsbury continues to explore ways to sound his Australian Indigenous heritage. His research is largely centred on
Regionalism in music.
In many of his works one may expect to hear the guitar, his main instrument. Sainsbury maintains an active career as a guitarist performing jazz, contemporary and new music styles. He is perhaps
the worlds leading exponent on guitar bi-tones.
Early composition highlights include:
1986: Winner of the Young Australian Composer Award for Australian Concert Overture.
1986: Winner of the College Medal (Northen Rivers College of Advanced Education, Lismore) for academic excellence.
1986: Queensland Philharmonic Orchestra programmed his ambient orchestral work Horizons for QPAC performances and regional tours. This was the first in a series of many works to follow that
use sounds from nature and explore relationship with his local place.
1988: The Australian Chamber Orchestra commissioned his string orchestra piece Homage to TS Eliot (under director Carl Pini).
1994: Aboriginal Protestors, incidental music, (directed by Noel Tovey) was featured at the Sydney Festival and the Weimar Festival.
2002: Concerto for Guitar (The Luthier), written for Spanish virtuoso Jose Maria Gallardo Del Rey, was featured at the Darwin International Guitar Festival, commissioned by Adrian
2004-2005: My Eye Has Seen My Desire commissioned and toured by the Netherlands renowned new music ensemble, Duo Bosgraaf-Elias (bass recorder and guitar).
2010: First Light, an orchestral work which won the New England Philharmonic Orchestra, Boston composers competition 2010-11.
Past work includes composition and/or broadcasts: the London-based Wilhelm String Quartet and the Crossroads Festival (Australia 2010), the Swedish New Music group Levande Musik, Rachel Tolmie
with the Central Coast Concertante Ensemble (cond. Chris Bearman), A Band Called Bouddi (contemporary ensemble), the Millenium Symphony (strings of Virginia Symphony Orchestra) under American
Classics Label conductor Robert Ian Winstin, ABC broadcasts featuring Australian guitar great Ken Murray, contemporary pianist Michael Hannan for the Newcastle Bi-Centennial Authority 1988, the Blue
Mountains New Music Festival 1988, the Central Coast Philharmonia, the Central Coast Symphony Orchestra, the World Expo Brisbane 1988, and many more. Much of this goes back into the mid
Spirit Land, 2017, commissioned by documentary film maker Robert Doyle.
Mud Moon, 2017, Commissioned to celebrate the Australian Ceramic Artist, Ros Auld
The Sphinx, 2016-17, Commissioned by Avondale Conservatorium for "The Promise" (a cappella choir)
Scar Tree, 2016, commissioned by the Primal Dance Company (for the Sydney Fringe Festival and East Coast Tour).
The Earth Song, 2016 by Bob Brown (former Senator) and commissioned by Bob Brown to be arranged for community choir. This was then performed at the Canberra Writer’s
Festival in 2016.
The Magic of This Dawn, commissioned by the North Sydney Symphonic Wind Ensemble (NSSWE) and performed at the NSSWE Festival, Chatswood, 2016
Australian Concert Overture was performed by Symphony Central Coast, December 2016 at the Central Coast Grammar School Auditorium. This is the first performance of
this work for 30 years, since it won the Australian Young Composer Award in 1986.
The Flowergirls, for solo oboe, performed at the Australian Double Reed Society National Conference and Competition as a set work for higher level competitors, Sydney Grammer School,
North Country Sketches, for guitar, Sydney/NSW premiere by touring Italian virtuoso Gian Marco Ciampa in 2016.
Brackish Songs, for mezzo-soprano and guitar, featuring Giuseppe Zangari and Michaele Archer, hosted by the College of Arts and Social Sciences Indigenous lecture-recital,
ANU, October 2016.
Ratoos, for flute ensemble. For the Flutation Festival, Central Coast Conservatorium 2016.
Civic Melancholy, 2015, recipient of an Art Central Grant from Regional Development Australia (Central Coast).
Brackish Songs, 2015, recipient of an Art Central Grant from Regional Development Australia (Central Coast).
Gallipoli Sensings, 2015, for the Wind Trio of the Royal Australian Navy Band Sydney. Installation with the Contemporary Gallipoli exhibition. Macquarie University Gallery,
Cowra Regional Art Gallery and Grafton Regional Art Gallery.
Beach Holiday, 2014, and Where Cooling Zephyrs Breathe, 2015. Sainsbury was commissioned to complete two new works to contribute to the youth orchestra repertoire, an important
initiative by Australian conductor Patrick Brennan. His Concert Overture - Beach Holiday was performed by the Central Coast Youth Orchestra in 2014, and Where Cooling Zephyrs Breathe was
performed by the same group in 2015.
Sainsbury values the importance of teaching and education as an essential conjunct to his being a composer and musician. He is currently a Lecturer in Composition and Musicology at the
Australian National University (ANU). Previously, he held a full time position at Eora College—an Indigenous college in Sydney—where he taught from 1990 and later was Head of Arts and Media
from 1999 - 2015. In this role he supervised numerous courses in music, theatre, screen studies and Aboriginal Arts. He has also taught at UTS and at Avondale College.
In community settings he was director of a large community choir “Bouddi Voice” for several
years on teh Central Coast. He has also been musical director for many Aboriginal theatre and music events in Redfern including Sydney’s first Koorabaret in 1992. For many years he was director
of and composer for “A Band Called Bouddi”, an avant-garde mixed ensemble based in regional NSW. In this group his song cycle based on a lecture by Dr David Suzuki was premiered at the UNSW
Environmental Symposium 1994 where Suzuki was a guest speaker.
As a guitarist Chris has played in all the south-Eastern states at various clubs, pubs, surf clubs and festivals going back to 1979. His solo guitar album Anima has featured on ABC broadcasts
(Lucky Oceans - The Planet), and more recently he was guitarist for the Scar Tree ensemble, playing for the modern dance work of the same name. In addition to the 'classical' based material he has
written around 200 jazz tunes, folk and rock songs, and surf music tracks, much with a guitar focus. He performs much of this live around the centres of Canberra and the Central Coast of NSW.
Scores and recordings of Christopher Sainsbury’s works are available from the Australian Music Centre, Wirripang, and the
National Library Australia, as well as this website. He maintains an 'indie' approach as much as possible.
Visit the Hear Sounds page to hear sounds, and the List of Works page for