The winner of the prestigious Robert Edler Prize for Choral Music has, for the first time, been awarded to a composer, Stephen Leek. Born in Sydney in 1959, Stephen Leek is well known and admired in choral circles throughout the world, as a composer and also as founder, artistic director and conductor of The Australian Voices.
Now in its tenth year, this acclaimed young mixed choral ensemble comprises mostly students aged from 17 – 26. They perform exclusively new music, almost all of it by Australian composers. In May they launched their seventh CD, ‘Voices Live’ all released and distributed on their own house label. In 1996, they were the official Australian representatives at the 4th World Symposium on Choral Music. Subsequent awards have included major prizes at the Bela Bartok International Choral Competition in Hungary in 1998. In 2001, they were awarded multiple first prizes at the Internatioanl Choral Eisteddfod in Llangollen, Wales.
In choosing the 44 year old Stephen Leek, the Edler jury acknowledges the decisive influence he has had on Australian music. In a unique way, the jury announced, Stephen Leek has combined various elements and themes from Australia under the influence of Aboriginal music, creating a multi-faceted, modern and impressive sound experience.
The jury comprises leading figures of the choral world: Royce Saltzman (USA), Mitsukazu Suwaki (Japan), Erkki Pohjola (Finland), Peter Erdei (Hungary), and Dolf Rabus (Germany).
The Edler Prize for Choral Music is meant to draw attention to and honour a person, choir or institution who or which has had a decisive influence on the international choral world or who has gained international acclaim for interpretation or the composition of an extraordinary choral work. Past winners have been Toonu Kaljuste from Estonia (1999), Maria Guinand from Venezuela (2000), Frieder Bernius from Stuttgart (2001), and The World Youth Choir (2002).
Coincidentally, the award was announced just as Stephen Leek and The Australian Voices left their base in Brisbane for their fourth tour of Europe. In the coming weeks, they will perform in Germany, Poland and The Czech Republic.