Experimental jazz trio The Necks and Mona Foma artistic director Brian Ritchie were in the winner’s circle at the 2019 Art Music Awards, held Monday night in Sydney.

The Necks, formed in Sydney in 1987 by Chris Abrahams (keys), Tony Buck (drums, guitar) and Lloyd Swanton (bass), become the first band presented with the newly-named Richard Gill Award for distinguished services to Australian music, the night’s top honour.

The accolade, determined by the APRA board of writer and publisher directors, pays tribute to the Necks’ three-decade-long career, during which time they walked “the line between avant-garde, improvisation and minimalism while still paying respect to jazz,” organisers said in a statement.

All told, trophies were handed out for 11 national categories, with Damien Ricketson and Adena Jacobs (vocal / choral work of the year for ‘The Howling Girls’), Joshua Kyle and Andrew Murray (jazz work of the year for ‘Trombone Song Cycle’) and Mary Finsterer (instrumental work of the year for ‘Ignis’) among the winners.

Brian Ritchie
Brian Ritchie

Also on the night, Ritchie, founding bass player with Violent Femmes, who relocated from the U.S. to Hobart in 2007 and two years later curated the first MoFo Festival (short for Museum of Old and New Art: Festival Of Music and Art), took out the Tasmania Award for “excellence by an individual.”

Away from the celebrated fest, Ritchie continues to perform with Violent Femmes, whose most recent album Hotel Last Resort was released last month via PIAS.

Violent Femmes
Violent Femmes

The alternative rocker and curator was one of eight state winners, announced at the gala party at the Great Hall of the University of Sydney.

Hosted by APRA AMCOS and the Australian Music Centre (AMC), the Art Music Awards are said to be the only nationwide event in these parts to acknowledge the achievements and creative successes of Australian composers, performers and educators in the genres of contemporary classical music, jazz and experimental music.

The host was Jonathan Biggins with music curation by jazz pianist Barney McAll, and the line-up of presenters included CEO of the Australia Council for the Arts, Adrian Collette AM; Create NSW executive director of Investment & Engagement, Elizabeth W. Scott; and artistic director for SIMA, Zoe Hauptmann.

See the full list of winners below.

Richard Gill Award for Distinguished Services to Australian Music
The Necks

Vocal / Choral Work of the Year
Title: The Howling Girls
Composer: Damien Ricketson; with Adena Jacobs (director)
Performer: Sydney Chamber Opera: Jane Sheldon (soprano); artists from The House That Dan Built (ensemble)

Jazz Work of the Year
Title: Trombone Song Cycle
Composer: Joshua Kyle and Andrew Murray
Performer: Joshua Kyle (voice), James Greening, James Macauley, Jordan Murray & Adrian Sherriff (trombones) with Andrew Murray (conductor)

Instrumental Work of the Year
Title: Ignis
Composer: Mary Finsterer
Performer: James Wannan (viola d’amore) and Christopher Pidcock (cello)

Orchestral Work of the Year
Title: Implacable Gifts (Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra)
Composer: Carl Vine
Performer: Kathryn Stott (piano), Piers Lane (piano), West Australian Symphony Orchestra with Rory Macdonald (conductor)
Publisher: Hal Leonard/Faber

Performance of the Year
Performer: Speak Percussion with Jessica Aszodi
Title: Atlas of the Sky
Composer: Liza Lim; texts by Bei Dao and Eliot Weinberger
Publisher: Universal Music Publishing MGB obo Ricordi Berlin

Award for Excellence by an Organisation
Zephyr Quartet for their 2018 activities and 20 years of sustained contribution to the local, national
and international arts scene

Award for Excellence by an Individual
Lyn Williams for significant contribution to the creation and performance of choral music in

Award for Excellence in Music Education
West Australian Symphony Orchestra for Crescendo, El Sistema-inspired free music education

Award for Excellence in a Regional Area
Steel City Strings for activities in 2018 and commitment to new Australian music

Award for Excellence in Experimental Music
Bendigo International Festival of Exploratory Music for their ongoing contribution

Award for Excellence in Jazz
Ross McHenry for recording, international touring, residencies and commissions


ACT Award for Excellence by an Organisation
Canberra International Music Festival for sustained creative excellence, exceptional growth and cultivation of
Australian music

NSW Award for Excellence in Jazz
Ellen Kirkwood for [A]part and other projects and activities in 2018

NT Award for Excellence in a Regional Area
Warren H. Williams, Michael Sollis and Barkly Arts for One Sky Many Stories, inspiring audiences as they
explore their relationship to the night sky, Indigenous culture and the world around us

QLD Award for Excellence in Experimental Music
Leah Barclay for Listening Underwater, a large-scale experimental music and acoustic ecology project

SA Award for Excellence by an Individual
Gabriella Smart for activity in 2018

TAS Award for Excellence by an Individual
Brian Ritchie for sustained contribution to the Australian music sector as a performer, curator and mentor

VIC Award for Excellence by an Individual
Cat Hope for leadership in the composition, performance and education of new music in Australia

WA Jazz Work of the Year
Daniel Susnjar for Onward and Upward