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Composer Sally’s had a signature year

Sally Greenaway and her new book. Photo: Stephanie Neeman

IT’S been a signature year for one of Canberra’s busiest composers, Sally Greenaway. 

The ACT is blessed with many fine contemporary composers, but few have proved as entrepreneurial as Greenway, who combines an active piano-teaching business with an ongoing program of private recitals at Greenaway Studio in Chapman and imaginative recordings of her work.

And there’s been recognition, with Greenaway named festival composer at the 2023 Bowral Autumn Music Festival, where she saw Sally Walker, billed as “Australia’s best flautist”, play her new composition “Of Moths and Moonlight”.

Greenaway Studio concerts are always accompanied by wine, food and informal post-concert gatherings in the gardens Greenaway and husband Peter have established. 

Last year in a significant coup, she scored a visit from Calvin Abdiel, named best Australian pianist of the 2021 Sydney International Piano Competition.

Recently, the American harpist Emily Granger performed for the second time at the studio in a concert where was later joined by Walker.

Internationally renowned saxophonist Niels Bijl and leading Dutch harpsichordist Peter Hagen also performed there and Hagen will be back again for a pre-Christmas afternoon concert of 17th and 18th century baroque harpsichord music on December 10.

Greenaway, whose writing spans a wide assortment of styles and genres, including classical solo, chamber and orchestral works, jazz ensemble and big band works as well as film, advertising and documentary soundtracks, is a graduate of the ANU School of Music’s Jazz Department and a postgraduate from the Royal College of Music in London.

During the pandemic, she developed and fine-tuned a digital concert series, the latest in which is “The Memories of Poplar Trees”, inspired by the avenues of tall poplars in towns across NSW.

Greenaway, unlike many of her more taciturn peers, has been outspoken on the subject of the plight of contemporary musicians, both before, during and after covid, arguing out loud against the limited opportunities for female composers and composers in Canberra and the need to be constantly having to find ways “to find your people”.

“We’d love to be seen more,” she says.

Recently, when launching her new book of 12 original compositions, “Piano Music for Discoverers (vol 1),” she had more to say. 

Asked at the launch what had been the hardest part of her life as a musical artist, she responded, quick as a flash, “sustaining yourself, paying bills, in a world where music is free”.

As to the age-old question of whether to take a day-job as she had done many times in the past or whether to follow one’s “real vocation”, she proposed the value in taking commissions, bringing real people into the music and asking them, what is their story?

But in the search to “find freedom, create moods and colours through music”, she said, she had found one relationship which was unbreakable – “the piano is like your friend”. 

Peter Hagen, baroque harpsichord, Greenaway Studio, Chapman, (address on booking), December 10. Sally Greenaway’s music is accessible at sallygreenaway.com.au/poplars

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Helen Musa

Helen Musa

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