Ross Harris (born 1945, Christchurch), one of New Zealand’s most recognised and celebrated composers, will receive the CANZ Trust Fund Award during the New Zealand Festival in Wellington next month. In the same ceremony, the KBB/CANZ Citation for Services to New Zealand Music will also be presented to the Wellington-based new music ensemble Stroma.
The Composers Association of New Zealand (CANZ) presents its Trust Fund Award each year to a composer whose current compositional activities are considered outstanding. New Zealand’s network of composers, CANZ supports and advocates for emerging and established New Zealand composers and their work. The Trust Fund winner is decided each year by the CANZ committee, elected members who donate their time to support the network and its various activities.
Harris’s music is widely hailed as strong and skilful, often tackling deep themes from history. He has set notable texts by leading NZ poets and writers, and his collaborations with poet Vincent O’Sullivan in particular have produced two remarkable operas, a symphony, three song cycles and a requiem. Harris’ output of over two hundred works is notable for its many large-scale compositions including five symphonies and two concerti. His work has been played in many countries, and he has won many awards including a QSM in in 1985, and made an Arts Laureate in 2014. Harris has won the SOUNZ Contemporary Award more times than any other New Zealand composer. Each new work shows a mature voice characterised by musical richness and security of purpose.
KBB Music has for many years sponsored and supported the KBB/CANZ Citation for Services to New Zealand Music, an annual award presented to an individual or organisation in recognition of their outstanding contribution and commitment to New Zealand composition.
Established in 1999 by composers Mike Norris and Phil Brownlee, and performers Bridget Douglas and Hamish McKeich, Stroma has brought much new music to Wellington and beyond. Comprising mostly NZSO members who have a desire to play challenging new music, the ensemble has commissioned and premiered over 40 works by such NZ composers as David Downes, James Gardner, Ross Harris, Alexandra Hay, Samuel Holloway, Dorothy Ker, Dugal McKinnon and Jeroen Speak, and presented it alongside new music from leading international composers.
Stroma will join a long list of recipients of the KBB/CANZ Citation which includes Jack Body, David Farquhar, Dame Gillian Whitehead, Karen Grylls, Douglas Lilburn, Margaret Neilsen, Philip Norman, John Rimmer, John Ritchie, the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, 175 East, the NZTrio, Waiteata Music Press and many more.
The two awards will be presented at the conclusion of the second performance of Harris’s work Brass Poppies at Shed 6 on Friday 4th March. With a libretto by Vincent O’Sullivan and a score performed by Stroma and NZ Opera, the chamber opera powerfully depicts the Gallipoli story and its impact on New Zealanders.