Sainsbury - composer - songwriter -
guitarist - educator
I base myself in regional, community and professional music settings. I am keenly interested in the
interpretation of my home region in sound, seeking out influences from what I call my 'aural homelands' of the Central Coast and Sydney, and I reference these in my music. This stems in part from my
Australian Indigenous heritage, which is an unusual position for an Australian composer. I am a descendant of Australia's first settled Indigenous people - the Dharug of Sydney and surrounds (also
known by some as the Eora or Cadigal, amongst other names).
In many of my works one may expect to hear the guitar, my main instrument. I maintain an active career as a
guitarist performing jazz and contemporary, surf music and new music styles. Hear Ocean Song
(performed by the Random Earth Band) at: Ocean Song Also see Guitar music page.
The 'yadda yadda' stuff:
Early composition highlights
(Yes, lots from the 1980s. I'm older than I realised!)
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 Theatre Orchestra programmed my ambient orchestral work Horizons for
QPAC performances and regional tours.
1988: The Australian Chamber Orchestra (ACO) commissioned my string orchestra piece
Homage to TS Eliot (then under director Carl Pini).
1994: Aboriginal Protestors, commissioned incidental music by leading
Aboriginal theatre director Noel Tovey) for the Sydney Festival and the Weimar Festival Germany.
2002: Concerto for Guitar for Spanish virtuoso Jose Maria Gallardo Del
Rey, commissioned by the Darwin International Guitar Festival.
2004-2005: My Eye Has Seen My Desire commissioned
by the Netherlands renowned new music ensemble, Duo Bosgraaf-Elias (bass recorder and guitar).
2010: First Light won the New England Philharmonic Orchestra
Boston composers competition 2010-11.
Past compositions include commissions/performances: the Crossroads Festival (Australia 2010), the Swedish New
Music group Levande Musik, cor anglais player Rachel Tolmie and the Central Coast Concertante Ensemble (cond. Chris Bearman), guitarist Ken Murray, contemporary pianist Michael Hannan for the Newcastle Bi-Centennial Authority 1988 and the Blue Mountains New Music Festival
1988, the Central Coast Philharmonia, the Central Coast Symphony Orchestra (home!), the World Expo Brisbane 1988, and many more. Much of this goes back into the mid 1980s, and much articulates
The Magic of This Dawn, performed by Yale Concert Band, Yale USA, 2019.
Bardo, flute trio for Mark Xiao and friends, for the Australian Flute Festival
July 2019, Sydney Conservatorium.
Lake Music, a commissioned installation piece in collaboration with the photo-media artist Rowan Conroy,
Goulburn Regional Art Gallery July - September 2019. Now part of their permanent collection.
Bark of the 'bidgee, Small mixed ensemble work commissioned by Canberra International Music Festival (CIMF),
cond. Roland Peelman, May 2019.
The Arrival, for Teddy (Edward) Neeman solo piano, commisioned by the Polish Festival Canberra October
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, a string trio 2017, Commissioned to celebrate the Australian Ceramic Artist, Ros Auld
The Sphinx, for a cappella choir 2016-17, Commissioned by Avondale Conservatorium for choir "The Promise"
Scar Tree, 2016, commissioned by the Primal Dance Company (for the Sydney Fringe Festival and East Coast Tour).
The Earth Song, 2016 by former Senator Bob Brown, commissioned by Bob Brown to be arranged for community choir. Performed at the Canberra Writer’s Festival in
The Magic of This Dawn, commissioned by the North Sydney Symphonic Wind Ensemble (NSSWE) and performed at the NSSWE Festival, Chatswood, 2016 and their Japan tour.
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, a set work for higher level competitors Australian Double Reed Society National Conference and Competition, Sydney, 2016
North Country Sketches, performed by guitarist Italian virtuoso Gian Marco Ciampa in 2016 (Australia and Italy).
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. I was commissioned to complete two new works to contribute to the youth
orchestra repertoire, an important initiative by Australian conductor Patrick Brennan. 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:
I am currently a Senior Lecturer in Composition at the Australian National University (ANU). Previously
I held a full time position at the Eora Centre—an Indigenous tertiary college in Sydney—where I taught from 1990 and later was Head of Aboriginal Visual and Performing Arts from 1993 - 2015. In this
role I supervised numerous programs in music, theatre, screen studies and Aboriginal Arts. My team ensured that our graduates are represented at the top level in todays Indigenous music sector, the
Indigenous theatre sector, in the Indigenous film and TV sector, and in major galleries of NSW and Australia. I also taught briefly at UTS (Curriculum Studies), and also at Avondale College
(Australian Music Studies, Ethnomusicology and Composition).
In community settings I was director of a large community choir 'Bouddi Voice' for several years on the
Central Coast. I have also been musical director for many Aboriginal theatre and music events in Redfern including Sydney’s first Koorabaret in 1992.
I am the founder and artistic director for Ngarra-burria: First Peoples Composers in Australia, (previously
known as the Australian Indigenous Composer Initiative). See earlier link here: https://www.limelightmagazine.com.au/news/christopher-sainsbury-wins-major-indigenous-composer-grant/ Also see other page.
As a guitarist I have played in all the south-Eastern states at various clubs, pubs, cafes, surf clubs and
festivals going back to 1979. My solo guitar album Anima has featured on ABC broadcasts (particularly with Lucky Oceans - The Planet), and more recently I am a guitarist in the Random Earth Band. In
addition to the 'classical' based material I have written around 200 jazz, folk and rock tunes/songs, and surf music tracks, much with a guitar focus. Recent examples are on the Guitar page at:
Scores and recordings of my works are available from the Australian Music Centre,
Wirripang, and the National Library Australia, as well as this website. I maintain an 'indie' approach as much as possible.
Visit the Hear Sounds page to
hear sounds, and the Find Scores page for