Sainsbury - composer - songwriter -
guitarist - educator
Christopher Sainsbury has made a sustained contribution to Australian music basing himself in both
professional and community music arenas for many years. As part of his practice he focusses on interpreting his home region in sound, seeking out influences from his 'aural homelands' of the Central
Coast and Sydney where he lived for decades, referencing these in his music. This stems from his Australian Indigenous heritage, being a descendant of Australia's first settled Indigenous people -
the Dharug (also known as Eora) of Sydney and surrounds.
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.
Early composition highlights
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
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 Walter.
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
Djagamara, 2018, for the Griffyn Ensemble (flute and harp)
performance at the Canberra Sorry Day concert.
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
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
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.
Education and other:
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 the
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.
Chris is the founder and artistic director for the Australian Indigenous Composer Initiative. See link here:
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, folk and rock tunes/songs, and surf music tracks, much with a guitar focus. He
performs much of this live around the Central Coast of NSW and Canberra.
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 more information.