Christopher Sainsbury
Composer - Songwriter - Guitarist - Educator

Christopher Sainsbury: composer - songwriter - guitarist - educator

"Surely this year's Australian musician of the moment"

(The Australian Music Centre's Resonate magazine May 2019)

Brief Introduction

Christopher Sainsbury composes in various genres, and his recent works include an opera The Visitors commissioned by Richard Mills for the Victorian Opera Company's 2023 season (with libretto by Jane Harrison), a string orchestra work String Talk commissioned by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra for July 2024, A Lithium Fascination commissioned by the UBC Future Minerals Working Group and Axiom Brass Chicago as part of The Heavy Metal Suite (a collaboration with composers Yao Chen, Augusta Read Thomas and others), and Ocean Song – an album of ambient surf music with the Random Earth Band which features legendary Australian guitarist Guy Strazz and Chris on guitars. Some early commissions include works for the Australian Chamber Orchestra (1987), for Australian flute elder Gordon Yemm (1987), as well as for the Central Coast Philharmonia (1988) – a group from his previous home. Composing music that responds to his home region is meaningful to him. See Bio for a more comprehensive list of composing engagements and credits.

Sainsbury is Associate Professor in Composition at the Australian National University (ANU) Canberra. He won the APRA National Luminary Award in 2020 for effecting change within the classical and new music industry through the Ngarra-burria First Peoples Composers program (see Ngarra-burria page), and a Classical:NEXT Innovation Award was awarded to the program in 2022 for innovation in practice. He was also winner of the (Boston) New England Philharmonic Orchestra's Open Call for Scores in 2010-11. Since the mid-1980s he has made a sustained contribution to Australian music through composing, performing and teaching. In more recent years he has strongly advocated for the commissioning and programming of First Nations composers (a people of whom he is a part), and also advocated for more programming of all Australian composers. “It’s so clear that your work and guidance have been invaluable to help the ABC forge a deeper engagement with Australian composers.” (Matthew Dewey – former Music Director, ABC Classic).

Recent Awards

Recent performances / releases / new commissions / events

Upcoming CD's:

* Djagamara: on Sally Walker and Emily Granger CD release Something Like This. Out on Oct 20, 2023.
* ABC Classic CD: Ken Murray, Merindah Dias-Jayasinha, Laila Engle, and Ensemble Three perform Sainsbury.

Select Performances:

* The Visitors: a new opera commissioned by Richard Mills for the Victorian Opera Company, five shows Oct 18 – 21 2023. Libretto by Jane Harrison. Conductor is Phoebe Briggs. Link:

* Mud Moon: an older string trio re-arranged for Ensemble Offspring, MRC performance Oct 18 2023.

* In Full Sail: a new work commissioned for The Young Flute Player book, Allegro Publishing, out on Oct 1, 2023.

* The Earth Song: composed by Senator Bob Brown, arranged for choir by Chris. Performed by SCUNA Canberra, Oct 1, 2023.

* Guwara: originally commissioned by Melbourne String Ensemble. SSO Schools performances throughout 2023. Also, Melbourne String Ensemble performances in Germany and the Czech Republic in March-April 2024.

* Australian Concert Overture: a work from 1985. SSO Schools performances throughout 2023.

* The Flowergirls. Solo oboe work from 1992, November performance Evlana Ensemble soloist, Dublin and Cork.

* Upon a High Rock Platform: commissioned by Sydney’s Bel a cappella. An ‘Acknowledgement of Country’ work.

* A Lithium Fascination: Commissioned by the University of British Columbia's Future Minerals Working Group, for the Axiom Brass Quintet (Chicago). This is a part of the Heavy Metal Suite, which is a comment on the future of mining and sustainability, a collaborative work by composers from around the world including Roberto Morales (Mexico), Vuma Levin (South Africa), Augusta Read Thomas (USA), Yao Chen (China), myself and others.

* String Talk: SSO performances July 2024, cond. Simone Young.

* New work: CSO commission for Sept 2024.

* Aria Nominee: The ABC Classic CD To Listen To Sing Ngarra-burria: First Peoples Composers played by Ensemble Offspring, the Ngarra-burria program’s partnering ensemble has been nominated for an Aria Award (Australian Recording Industry Association Music Award) in the Best Classical Album category for 2023. It's competitive, with the ACO, Simon Tedesky and Genvieve Lacey among the other nominees. The To Listen To Sing album is the result of our combined efforts: the composers, the performers - Ensemble Offspring, the support of the Australian Music Centre and the School of Music at the ANU, the engineering and producing folks at the ABC, and me for vision and artistic directorship of the program. Well done all, but a special thanks to Claire from the group – what a great and tireless supporter of Indigenous voices. See:

Featured CD's

The Sainsbury solo guitar CD, The Promise Choir, and Random Earth Band (Click image to order) or hear excerpts on this site.

Click on CDs for email / ordering page