Sainsbury - composer - songwriter -
guitarist - educator
Christopher Sainsbury bases himself in both professional industry and community music settings. He is keenly
interested in the interpretation of his home region in sound, seeking out influences from his 'aural homelands' of the Central Coast and Sydney, and he references these in his music. This stems from
his Australian Indigenous heritage, which is an unusual position for an Australian composer. He is a descendant of Australia's first settled Indigenous people - the Dharug (also known as the
Eora/people) 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 and contemporary, acoustic surf music and new music styles. Hear Ocean Song (performed by Chris, Guy Strazz, Steve Marquis and Christina) at: Ocean Song Also see Guitar music page.
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 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 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 compositions include commissions/performances with: the London-based Wilhelm String Quartet and 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, the World Expo Brisbane 1988, and many more. Much of this goes back into the mid
1980s, and much articulates community engagement.
The Magic of This Dawn, performed by Yale Concert Band, Yale USA, 2019.
Yabun 1,flute trio for Mark Xiao and friends, for the Australian Flute Festival
July 2019, Sydney Conservatorium.
Lake Music, 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 for Canberra International Music Festival, cond. Roland Peelman,
The Arrival, for Teddy Neeman solo piano, Polish Festival Canberra October 2018.
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 "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.
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. Sainsbury 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:
Sainsbury values the importance of teaching and education as an essential conjunct to his being a
composer and musician. He is currently a Senior 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 1993 - 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.
Chris is 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 Chris has played in all the south-Eastern states at various clubs, pubs, cafes, surf clubs and
festivals going back to 1979. His solo guitar album Anima has featured on ABC broadcasts (particularly with 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, and for the Random Earth Band. 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 has performed much of this live around the states of NSW and the ACT.
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 Find Scores page for