Sandra Milliken is an internationally-acclaimed Australian composer of mainly choral music, with her own series Choral Vivace published by Edition Peters, London.
Like many students studying Music at secondary school and university, I had, on various occasions, tried my hand at composing small snippets of instrumental and vocal music. But I had never given it serious consideration as a career path.
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/arrangements. You can view the full set by going to the Catalogues tab in the main menu (above).