Sydney based composer/conductor Christopher Bowen OAM, is one of Australia's most prolific composers and versatile musicians. As an orchestral/choral conductor, he has an enormous repertoire, embracing all genres of music. He is also known for his skills as an expert arranger, pianist, vocal coach and clinician, and is proficient in languages.
Over the years, his striking and thought provoking compositions combined with innovative concert programming have introduced both audiences and performers to a unique and inspirational world of music.
Christopher Bowen was born in Melbourne and studied music at Melboune University and the Konservatorium der Stadt Wien, where he studied conducting, piano and korrepetition. He has worked with many organisations including the Vienna Chamber Orchestra, Opera Australia, the Victorian State Opera and has been a staff member of the Vienna and Sydney Conservatoriums.
His conducting repertoire embraces the major orchestral and choral works from the 16th century to contemporary music. Known for his imaginative and innovative concert programs, he has introduced audiences to many unjustly neglected works such as Mozart's Thamos König in Ägypten Mendelssohn's Die erste Walpurgisnacht and extraordinary oratorio Paulus. He has conducted the Australian premieres of Beethoven's Kantate auf den Tod Kaiser Josephs II, Saint-Saëns' Le Déluge , Mass Opus 4 , Oratorio de Noel and Requiem, Bruckner's Requiem in D minor, von Suppe's Requiem (Missa pro defunctis), Heinichen's Missa No.9 in D, D’Astorga’s Stabat Mater, and more recently Nicolai's Te deum. The works of composers such as Cherubini, C.P.E. Bach and the great bohemian composer Jan Dismas Zelenka have also been featured in concerts. In May 2019 , he conducted the first performance in Australia of Francois-Joseph Gossec’s Messe des morts.
His considerable body of composition comprises many orchestral and choral works, instrumental and chamber music. He has also written two works, Nosferatu and Casablanca for the stage. His compositions and arrangements have received critical and public acclaim and have been broadcast on the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation),the ORF (Austrian Radio), Fine Music 102.5 and 3MBS Fine Music and performed by orchestras such as the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and the Australian National Orchestra.
In recent years major commissions have produced works such as Triste, Triste; Chorea; The Liberdade Requiem (dedicated to those who died whilst fighting for East Timor's independence); the satirical Démocratie based on Arthur Rimbaud's prose-poem; Tenebrae; and an extended setting of Christopher Brennan's evocative poem Sweet Silence after Bells. In 2011 he was commissioned by the Sydney University Graduate Choir to compose Songs of the Heart which was dedicated to Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir AC AVO. The premiere of this work, a setting of five poems by Christopher Brennan was greeted with acclaim.
An Australian War Requiem was commissioned to commemorate the Centenary of World War 1 and the Anzac tradition. It received its premiere on August 10th 2014 in a performance given at the Sydney Town Hall which was acclaimed by critics and audience alike. Since then the work has been broadcast nationally on ABC Classic FM, Fine Music 102.5 and 3MBS FM. A further performance will take place on Armistice Day, November 11th 2018 at the Sydney Town Hall.
Sunt lacrimae ( for solo viola , choir and string orchestra) was premiered in 2016 and in 2017, International House, The University of Sydney commissioned There are three things that will endure in this world (for clarinet, flute, choir & 2 pianos) as part of their 50th anniversary celebrations at the Sydney Conservatorium.
His most recent composition The Redfern Oratorio (large orchestra, choir, soprano & bass) has been commissioned by Dr. Robyn Williams AM and is inspired by the iconic Redfern Speech delivered by the Honourable Paul Keating, former Prime Minister of Australia.
In 1997 a CD recording of his music was released by the Australian National Orchestra and Choir. Since then other CDs of his music and arrangements have been released, among them, For the Beauty of the Earth, Botany Bay and Beyond , A Touch of Heaven and Reflections. In 2011 a recording of Saint-Saëns' Mass Opus 4 and motets was released featuring the Sydney University Graduate Chamber Choir.
As part of his commitment to developing young artists, he was instrumental in establishing the Joan Carden Award for young singers which honours the name of one of Australia's greatest sopranos.
He has also initiated the extremely popular and successful choral event "SYDNEY SINGS" which has taken place in the magnificent Sydney Town Hall since 2007. Performances have include Handel's "Messiah", Verdi's mighty "Requiem" and his own composition "An Australian War Requiem".
In 2008 he was made an Honorary Fellow of the University of Sydney in recognition of his contribution to its cultural life. That same year he also received the Stephen Lardner Award in recognition of his outstanding contributions to adult education.
In 2009 he received an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for his services to music.