The WASO Song Book, a commissioning program founded in 2010 by Janet Holmes à Court AC, provides opportunities to nurture musical careers and create new musical works with the ambition they may become the classics of tomorrow.

In 2020, with the generosity of Patron Prue Ashurst, WASO continues to support young and emerging artists, with 2015 Composition Project participant Olivia Davies composing a new work to appear in Morning Symphony: Dvořák’s Symphony No.8 and Gil Shaham Plays Brahms.

The Composition Project provides a lucky few up and coming composers with the opportunity to develop their skills in a professional orchestra environment which Olivia found to be invaluable, I remember it being intense, in a good way. The amount of workshop time we had really gave us the opportunity to experiment with our ideas and allowed for a lot of engagement with the musicians.”

In 2017 Olivia and James Ledger, Artistic Director of the Composition Project collaborated with WASO to deliver a series of workshops for teenagers living with chronic illness and mental health challenges as part of WASO’s Hospital Orchestra Project (HOP). They were invited by the HUSH Foundation to compose new works for an album of Australian composers for use in hospitals. These works were performed by WASO as part of HOP in 2018.

Jim has been (and still is) a great mentor to me - I have learnt a lot from him. I think one of the most important lessons from Jim that has stayed with me, is to always be honest in your work. By asking yourself if you’re being honest, you’re checking that your idea feels like your own, that it genuinely excites you and that you’re writing something that you actually want to write, not something that you think you should write.”


Whether a new work is for herself or commissioned by a generous Patron such as Prue, composing is a very personal process for Olivia, “I spend a lot of time thinking about the piece and developing an idea and for me, this is the most important part. I actually write and draw a lot of abstract ideas before notating anything musically - its a little chaotic at first, but eventually the overall concept and structure of the work starts to clarify. This then guides me through the notation process—which is often when it’s easy for me to get distracted by other ideas.”

Inspiration can come from all sorts of places, Olivia draws a lot of from visual art and photography, The language used around these mediums is where I find a lot of parallels in music. Having said that, sound itself is often inspiration enough and the first thing I consider is the ensemble or instrument that I’m writing for. I think about the timbre (colour) of each instrument’s sound, ways to explore it, and how that exploration can potentially unfold over the course of the piece.”

Prue Ashurst’s support enables WASO to commission this new work by an emerging West Australian composer which will be conducted by Cristian Măcelaru, Artistic Director of the prestigious Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music in Santa Cruz, California.

“Receiving this commission really means a lot and its of course immensely encouraging. WASO are an incredible orchestra and I’m very much looking forward to working with the musicians and Cristian Măcelaru.”


Morning Symphony: Dvorak’s Symphony No.8
Perth Concert Hall
Thursday 2 July – 11am
Tickets here

Gil Shaham Plays Brahms
Perth Concert Hall
Friday 3 and Saturday 4 July – 7.30pm
Tickets here

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