Helen Gifford is a Melbourne composer who has written in a wide range of forms, developing a special interest in theatre music. For twelve years, 1970 to 1982, she regularly composed music for Melbourne Theatre Company productions for directors including Rick Billinghurst, Tyrone Guthrie (UK), Frank Hauser (UK), Ray Lawler, Bruce Myles, David Myles, Mick Rodger (UK), John Sumner and Joachim Tenshert (Berliner Ensemble, East Germany). She later wrote two substantial music theatre pieces: Regarding Faustus (1983), on a Special Purpose Grant, (Music Board, Australia Council), and Iphigenia in Exile (1985), (commissioned by the Music, Theatre and Literature Boards of the Australia Council.)
Earlier, in 1973, she received a Senior Composer's Fellowship, and in 1974 became Composer-in-Residence to the Australian Opera.
In the 1990s there was an unspecified grant from the Edward H. Green Foundation, (1993), and commissions from Elision (1992) Music for the Adonia, Alpha Centauri Ensemble (1995) A Plaint for Lost Worlds, ABC Classic FM, for Michael Kieran Harvey, As Foretold to Khayyam (1999), and Astra Chamber Music Society, Choral Scenes:the Western Front, World War I (1999). Also, in 1995 she was awarded a Composer Fellowship to write a work for mezzo-soprano and large orchestra: Point of Ignition. This was a setting of six poems by the Australian poet Jessica Aldridge.
More recent works and perfomrances have been: for Astra, Catharsis (2001), for unaccompanied choir; for Geoffrey Morris (guitar) and Deborah Kayser (soprano), Spell Against Sorrow (2003); for Michael Kieran Harvey, Menin Gate (2004), for solo piano; and in 2010 for Astra The Tears of Things, for two speakers and choir.
In 1996, Helen was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia and honoured by Monash University with an honorary Doctorate of Letters.
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