SOUNZ Centre for New Zealand Music, with APRA AMCOS NZ, is thrilled to announce the finalists for the 2019 SOUNZ Contemporary Award | Te Tohu Auaha, celebrating excellence in contemporary composition:

Chris Gendall for Violin Concerto
Michael Norris for Violin Concerto – Sama
Chris Watson for ogee

The finalists were selected by a judging panel of independent industry representatives, including an international composer representative Lyell Cresswell (UK/NZ):

“I enjoyed catching up on all these scores. The range and standard of the entries was as diverse as one would expect. I think we have found three highly deserving finalists.”

The panel, Lyell Cresswell, Justine Cormack, Ross Harris, Gretchen La Roche and Ronan Tighe commented on the very high quality of the submissions this year, demonstrated in the 57 works entered by 41 composers.

Ross Harris said, “The standard of the applications for the SOUNZ Contemporary Award was so outstanding that judging was a real challenge. There was an amazing range of musical styles, all articulated very professionally. It was a great pleasure to be involved in the judging process.”

“It was a very interesting process and, amongst a strong pool of entries, there were some exceptional compositions. The top three represent the finest of the works under consideration but there were many more that impressed the panel that didn’t make it into the top three. It is exciting to know that new music of such an extraordinarily high standard, and of such a variety of styles, is being written in New Zealand at the moment.”  Ronan Tighe

Chris Gendall won the award in 2008 for his work Wax Lyrical. This year he is nominated for his work Violin Concerto.

“I’m delighted that my Violin Concerto is a finalist for the 2019 SOUNZ Contemporary Award. Every part of its realisation was a joy: from conception to rehearsal to performance. It’s equally fantastic to be able to acknowledge my incredible collaborators: the seismic energy of Mark Menzies, and the professionalism and nuanced playing of the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra. Their commitment to New Zealand exploratory music is truly commendable and (hopefully) contagious.”

Wellington composer Michael Norris has been nominated for the SOUNZ Contemporary Award six times, winning it in both 2014 with his work Inner Phases for string quartet and Chinese instrument ensemble, and in 2018 for his work Sygyt for throatsinger, ensemble and live electronics. His nominated work this year is Violin Concerto – Sama.

“I’m so delighted to be nominated again for the SOUNZ Contemporary Award. There is such a fantastic community of composers in Aotearoa at the moment, that to be considered in the same breath as my fellow nominees is a real honour.

When I was phoned up by Marc Taddei from Orchestra Wellington to commission a new violin concerto featuring Amalia Hall, I was glad for the opportunity, but when I then subsequently heard her play the Bartók Violin Concerto, I knew immediately that this was going to be something very special and important to me.”

Wellington composer Chris Watson, who won the Award in 2015 with sing songs self, is nominated this year with his work ogee for solo violin and orchestra.

“I’m greatly humbled to be nominated for this year’s SOUNZ Contemporary Award.  My piece, ‘ogee’, was written in 2008 while living in Dunedin, but the recording of it only became available in the past year.  For this recording I must pay tribute to violinist Justine Cormack and the Hamish McKeich led New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, as well as the world-class engineers and producers at RNZ Concert.  I feel immensely fortunate to be able to collaborate with artists of this calibre and to be part of a community of composers that inspires and challenges me.”

The winner of the SOUNZ Contemporary Award | Te Tohu Auaha will be announced at the 2019 APRA Silver Scroll Awards held at Spark Arena in Auckland on Wednesday, 2 October.

The SOUNZ Contemporary Award, celebrating its 21st anniversary this year, recognises New Zealand compositions demonstrating outstanding levels of creativity and inspiration and has been presented in collaboration with APRA AMCOS NZ since 1998. Read more about the opportunity, past winners and finalists with their works here.

APRA will be inducting three of Aotearoa’s most formative musical figures into the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame. Radio New Zealand will broadcast and live video stream the APRA Silver Scroll Awards ceremony on RNZ National, and online at

Read more about the opportunity, past winners and finalists with their works here. Visit APRA’s website to find out more about the Silver Scroll Awards.


2019 SCA finalists

From left to right: Chris Watson, Chris Gendall, Michael Norris


SOUNZ blog is designed for expressive discussion and debate amongst the arts and broader community. This is intended to be a safe space so please remember to keep comments respectful and avoid personal attacks, criticisms of specific organisations and defamatory language. Comments are moderated to ensure that they comply with SOUNZ’s Community guidelines.