Betty Beath is well-known as an Australian composer, a pianist and a music educator, who has taught at The Queensland Conservatorium and St Margaret’s Girls School, Brisbane. She herself began her piano training at the age of three and by the time she was seventeen had won many eisteddfod competitions and had twice been a finalist in the ABC Vocal and Instrumental Competition.
In 1950, she was awarded a University of Queensland Music Scholarship, which took her to the Sydney Conservatorium to study under the composer and pianist, Frank Hutchens. Later, specializing in piano and voice, she graduated from the Queensland Conservatorium, where her principal teachers were Max Olding and Dr. Janet Delpratt.
Betty lived for some time on the tiny, beautiful island of Abau in Papua and later in New Guinea. This experience ignited a deep interest in new sounds and rhythms of non-western music, an interest which widened when, in 1974, she and her husband, David Cox, who is a writer and book illustrator, were awarded a South-East Asia Fellowship that allowed them to study and carry out research in Indonesia.
Much of Betty’s music, which has been widely performed, broadcast and recorded overseas, reflects her interest in world culture and world events. Her Lament for Kosovo, for instance, expresses the deep sadness and anger she feels for the suffering of innocent people caught up in deadly conflict. This composition for string orchestra, is performed in many countries. Notable performances have been: in 2006, when it opened the program in the Peace Concert, under the patronage of UNESCO in the Konzerthaus, Vienna and in 2008, when it was performed by the 1. Frauen-Kammerorchester in the Schloss Gatterburg, Retz, Austria, in a program to celebrate the life of the first woman to receive the Nobel Prize, Baroness Bertha von Suttner; and the same year, when Lament for Kosovo was performed by the China Youth Philharmonic Orchestra in the Forbidden City Concert Hall, Beijing, China, as part of a world conference of women in music.
Merindu Bali, commissioned by Javanese pianist Ananda Sukarlan and dedicated to the victims of the act of terrorism in Bali has had many international performances and her orchestral tone poem Asmaradana was programmed during the Music of Australia concert held during the Trade and Cultural Mission in Jakarta, Australia Today Indonesia 94.
A more recent work, Towards the Psalms, a song cycle for voice and instrumental ensemble, is the setting of passages from a novel "Fugitive Pieces" by Anne Michaels, (recently released as a feature film), which describes tragedies of Jewish life during World War II. It was commissioned by the Brisbane Writer’s Festival 2004, and was subsequently awarded The Pacific Opera Vocal Writing Prize (2008).
Betty Beath’s orchestral works have been performed by the Ruse Philharmonic Orchestra, Bulgaria; the Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra, Czech Republic; The Queensland Symphony Orchestra; the Queensland Philharmonic Orchestra; the Queensland Conservatorium Orchestra; the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra; the Portland Symphony Orchestra; the Rhode Island Symphony Orchestra; the All State String Orchestra, Texas; the Trinity String Ensemble, Toronto, the Frauen-Kammerorchester von Osterreich, Vienna, the Camerata of St. John’s, and others.
Her work has been recorded and released on CD by Tall Poppies, Vienna Modern Masters, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Australia Music Centre, JADE, Grevillea Recordings and Wirripang.
Samples of Performances see more under Performances
Adagio for Strings, Lament for Kosovo performed by Frauen-Kammerorchester—First Austrian Women’s Chamber Orchestra, Retz, Austria (a program to celebrate the life of the first woman to receive the Nobel Prize in 1905, Baroness Bertha von Suttner) and China Youth Philharmonic Orchestra, Beijing, China. This work also opened a stunning concert on 10th December at the United Nations headquarters in Vienna. The concert was in honor of the Declaration of Human Rights, signed exactly 60 years to the day, and was held in the great rotunda of the Vienna UN complex.
Lament for Kosovo, for mandolin orchestra, was performed by the Providence Mandolin Orchestra (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tjxIXi5naqI&NR=1) in Albi, and Toulouse, France, and Kampen and Zwolle, Nederlands and Hingham, MA. USA
From a Lake of Honey, for double bass and piano, was performed by the Basso Moderno Duo in the, Hartford, CT, United Nations NY, Washington DC, Connecticut, and Lincoln Center, NY and Clug, Romania.
In This Garden, for mezzo soprano and piano, was performed by Marina Karagianni, in Australia House, London.
Though I Travel Far...I Do Not Forget was given its first performance by the Takarazuka Mandolin Orchestra, Japan and performances scheduled for 2009 in USA and Netherlands.
Il Poverollo, St Francis of Assisi was premeriered by Mandolins in Brisbane, the Alexandra Chorale and the Friars of St Phillips, in October 2010 at St John's Cathedral, Brisbane http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cukVA9R1-wM and
Nawang Wulan, Guardian of Earth and Rice http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gbciDezpc80
Interview for AMC Resonate Magazine with Betty Beath and Anni Heino, November 2012
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