I heard “The Dawn Wind” for the first time tonight. Although I expected it to sound great, I was not quite prepared for the intensity of imagination and inspiration propelling the flow of musical ideas. I felt enraptured by each magical moment that came and went. What a truly unique masterpiece!
Sandra is a most interesting and creative composer whose skills as pianist and choral conductor are clearly apparent in her lovely and inspiring songs. Her music will continue to be a delight to choirs around the world.
Sandra’s music is composed with the sound of expressive voices in mind – it’s alive with spirit and soul, making it a pleasure to explore.
The songs included in the anthology “Death of a Giant – Seven settings of Australian poetry” are fabulous. The beautiful texts are set with great artistry and a very real sense of the singer’s art.
I must tell you that my choir received a special award for Best Performance of a piece written after 1990 at the choral competition in Celje, Slovenia. We performed your “Missa Piccola”. Thank you for writing such beautiful music.
“Sing, Sing for Water” – my choir LOVES it. A few kids came into rehearsal early yesterday and one of the girls sat down and started playing the piano then they all started joining in and singing their parts. I walked in and there was a rehearsal going on! That never happens! Thanks for a great song.
Sandra Milliken – Australian Composer
The Journey to Composing
I was fortunate to be a very proficient pianist and I enjoyed concert and eisteddfod performances, teaching the instrument to young players, and accompanying instrumentalists and singers. Accompanying became my forté and so, when I was offered the position of accompanist with the highly-accaimed Cairns Choral Society, I readily agreed to take on the position. Apart from accompanying, my time with the Society provided me with opportunities to conduct small ensembles and also the whole choir (at one eisteddfod). I also directed a number of their musical theatre productions.
And so I settled into a routine of teaching, accompanying and conducting along with adjudicating eisteddfodau and leading workshops for conductors and choirs.
What then happened to lead me down the path to becoming a serious composer? It happened like this ….
I had been travelling for three months on a Winston Churchill Memorial Fellowship, visiting renowned conductors and choral pedagogues in England, Finland, Sweden, USA and Canada. Towards the end of my travels, I had spent some time with the Peninsula Women’s Chorus in San Francisco prior to attending the AmericaFest Women’s Choral Festival in Seattle. All the wonderful people, places, events and choral music I had experienced had come to a head, culminating in my own musical re-awakening.
I was on an Alaskan Airlines flight from Seattle to Los Angeles on my way home to Australia. My inflight snack tray was put in front of me and there, on the tray, was a small card carrying the following bible verse: “I will praise God’s name, and glorify Him with thanksgiving.” Psalm 69:30. I looked out the window and, spread before me, was a field of clouds beautifully lit by the rays of the setting sun. Suddenly, musical ideas triggered by the view and the text sprang to mind. I quickly borrowed a pen from my husband and wrote the basic outline of a new composition on my paper serviette. My first serious composition, Fanfare of Praise, was born!
This single event was the catalyst for my subsequent urge to continue composing. There was, suddenly, inside me, so much music just waiting to be released.
And so I now find myself recognised internationally as an Australian composer specialising in choral music. Whilst I still take much inspiration from the music I heard in Europe (especially Finland), as an Australian composer my compositions have a strong Australian influence that reflects my interests in indigenous languages, our unique flora and fauna, and texts by contemporary Australian writers. My works are performed by choirs in Scandinavia, Western Europe, the United Kingdom, North America, south-east Asia, New Zealand and Australia. Many have included selections from my repertoire in their CD recordings.
Here are some of my most recent compositions.