Michael composes himself to pick up the prize 

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“Canberra CityNews” Artist of the Year Michael Dooley… “extremely surprised and hopeful for the future that the arts in our city can flourish”. Photo: Holly Treadaway.

Canberra has a new “CityNews” Artist of the Year. Arts editor HELEN MUSA has the details.

A CANBERRA composer and pianist, who has unleashed an avalanche of music in the past year, has been named 2019 “Canberra CityNews” Artist of the Year, it was announced tonight (November 13) at the 29th ACT Arts Awards evening, held in the Canberra Museum & Gallery. 

Composer and pianist Michael Dooley was singled out by the Canberra Critics Circle judging panel for his extraordinary year, which included recordings, a range of compositions including commissions, choral works, his first piano concerto, film scores and world premiere performances of his works, as well as his own individual performances as a musician.

“CityNews” editor, Ian Meikle awarded Dooley a certificate and $1000 cheque, while “CityNews” craft writer Meredith Hinchliffe presented him with a platter designed by the late Canberra artist Robert Foster of F!NK Design. 

On learning of his selection as Artist of the Year, Dooley described himself as “extremely surprised and hopeful for the future that the arts in our city can flourish”. 

He thanked his family for their support, adding that he wanted to encourage others to believe it was possible to live as a full-time artist in Canberra, as he had done for the past 10 years. 

Among his international achievements in the past year have been a score for an animated film based on John Bunyan’s “The Pilgrim’s Progress”, released in 850 theatres in the US and in more than 100 theatres in Australia, the premiere of “The Land that is Far Off”, in Wurzburg, Germany, and “The Heavens Declare”, a commissioned work for two violins premiered at the Canberra International Music Festival by French duo Quatuor.

While his performances as a pianist with the jazz duo In2Deep were noted, it was the past year of composing that attracted the notice of the critics. 

From 2018-19 Dooley completed a song cycle “Truth and Beauty” based on the poems of Keats, a classical oratorio “Perpetua”, “Unto the King” for gospel music choir and soloist, “Rockata” for solo piano premiered by Andrew Rumsey, several works for the Canberra Wind Symphony and his first piano concerto, premiered by the National Capital Orchestra with Rumsey at the piano.

Recordings of his original works included “Wings of the Morning” laid down by Dooley and the Canberra Symphony Orchestra String Quartet, “Epiphany” for clarinet, piano and cello by Melbourne trio Ensemble Liaison and the song “Meeting Place” by Rhythm Syndicate.

Christopher Samuel Carroll… winner of the inaugural Helen Tsongas Award for Excellence in Acting.

Earlier in the evening, the inaugural Helen Tsongas Award for Excellence in Acting was presented by ACT Arts Minister, Gordon Ramsay to Christopher Samuel Carroll for his outstanding, diverse performance work, which included performances in “Howie the Rookie” at Smith’s Alternative, “Metamorphosis” at The Street Theatre, Icarus at The Street and for a striking Malvolio in Lakespeare’s outdoor production of “Twelfth Night”.

The new award is an initiative of the Tsongas family to keep alive the memory of their daughter and sister, the well-known Canberra actor Helen Tsongas (Brajkovic) who died in a motorcycle accident with her husband eight years ago. 

The ACT Arts Awards evening, hosted by the Canberra Critics Circle at the Canberra Museum and Gallery, also featured the circle’s own awards. 

They were made to: visual artists Julie Ryder, Raquel Ormella, Dianne Fogwell, Hiroe Swen, Helen Aitken-Kuhnen, Mio Kuhnen, Gilbert Riedelbauch and Keiko Amenomori-Schmeisser; writers Ginger Gorman, Kathryn Hind, Robert Macklin, Moya Pacey, Sandra Renew and Nigel Featherstone; dance artists Zara Bartley, Daniel Convery, Nathan Rutup, Ryan Stone and the Australian Dance Party; theatre artists Jarrad West, David Atfield, Omar Musa, Christopher Samuel Carroll, The Street Theatre and Mockingbird Theatre;  musical theatre artists Pippin Carroll, Pee Wee Productions and Charlotte Gearside; musicians Barbara Jane Gilby, Louise Page, Phillipa Candy, Michael Dooley, Christopher Latham, Dan Walker and Super Rats, led by Tim Meyen; film producers Lisa Shaunnessy and Andy Marriott, and film director Tony D’Aquino

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Helen Musa
“CityNews” arts editor

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