Holly Harrison is an Australian composer from Western Sydney. Holly’s music is driven by the nonsense literature of Lewis Carroll, embracing stylistic juxtapositions, the visceral energy of rock, and whimsical humour. She was the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra’s composer in residence across 2020-2022, and in 2023 is composer in residence for the ASME National Young Composer Project. Her music has been described as “exploding off the page”, full of “riotous energy, eclectic rhythmic complexity” and “inventive, witty and invested with thrilling dynamism and momentum”.
She has worked with the Sydney, Melbourne, Tasmanian, Canberra, West Australian, and Adelaide Symphony Orchestras, as well as the Australian Chamber Orchestra and Australian Youth Orchestra. Her music has been performed by a range of Australian artists including the Australian String Quartet, Australia Ensemble, Ensemble Offspring, Rubiks Collective, Adelaide Wind Orchestra, Riley Lee and Enigma Quartet, Partridge Quartet, Kiazma Piano Duo, Duo Blockstix, and soloists Matthew Kneale, Lloyd Van’t Hoff, and Emma-Shay Gallenti-Guilfoyle. Internationally, she has collaborated with Eighth Blackbird, Alarm Will Sound, Nu Deco Ensemble, Riot Ensemble, Orkest de Ereprijs, Het Gelders Orkest, Ensemble Garage, Peabody Studio Orchestra, and Catchfire Collective. Recently, her work has expanded to include orchestral arrangements for Australian songwriters Tim Minchin and Monique Brumby.
Recent highlights include the trumpet concerto Hellbent for Owen Morris and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of Johannes Fritzsch, and the announcement of Splinter as a finalist in the Work of the Year: Large Ensemble category of the 2021 APRA AMCOS Art Music Awards. Other highlights include the Australian Youth Orchestra touring Frumious internationally in 2019, and writing the rock-inspired Balderdash as the set string quartet work for the 2018 Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition. Holly’s Lobster Tales and Turtle Soup featured on Eighth Blackbird’s (USA) Australian tour as part of Musica Viva’s 2017 International Concert Season. Eighth Blackbird’s performance was later awarded Performance of the Year at the 2018 APRA AMCOS Art Music Awards. Lobster Tales has since been heard across the USA, UK, the Netherlands, Germany, and Sweden.
Holly is the recipient of numerous awards. She was the inaugural winner of the 2017 Sue W Chamber Music Composition Prize, awarded to an Australian female composer, and was a winner of Nu Deco Ensemble's 2018 Nu Works Initiative. She was awarded first place at the 2014 Young Composers Meeting in Apeldoorn, The Netherlands, chaired by Louis Andriessen, and was the winner of the 2013 Pyeongchon Arts Hall International Chamber Music Composition Competition (South Korea). She was a resident composer at the 2014 Mizzou International Composers Festival (USA) with Alarm Will Sound, and was one of two winners of The Riot Ensemble's (UK) 2014 Call for Scores.
Her works have been performed at festivals including the String Quartet Biennale Amsterdam (NL), Gaudeamus Muziekweek (NL), November Music (NL), LA Phil’s Noon to Midnight (USA), Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music (USA), Sound of Sweden (SWE), Now Hear This Festival (CAN), Asian Composers’ League Festival (TWN), Coriole Music Festival, Perth International Arts Festival, Adelaide Festival, Canberra International Music Festival, Four Winds Festival, and Port Fairy Spring Music Festival.
Holly is currently composer in residence at The King’s School and teaches casually at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. She was previously composer in residence at MLC School, Burwood NSW. Holly was a mentor for Omega Ensemble’s 2022 CoLAB program for pre-professional composers and a tutor for the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra’s 2022 Australian Composers’ School. She has presented workshops and seminars at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, Monash University, University of Wollongong, New England Conservatorium, ASME NSW Composition Day, Australian Music Day, and a diverse collection of schools.
Holly completed a Doctor of Creative Arts at Western Sydney University with Bruce Crossman and John Encarnacao, where she worked for several years as a sessional lecturer, co-ordinating performance and composition units. She also plays drum kit and percussion in the improvised rock duo Tabua-Harrison with Joey Tabua (electric guitar). Their debut record Scout is available on Psychopyjama.
Biography taken from composer’s website.
Photo: Steve Broadbent