Women Composers Development Program

2017 composers Sophie Van Dijk & Jos Markerink, and 2022 composers Aija Draguns & Janie Fitch

Since Coro Innominata was formed in 1992 it has established itself as one of Sydney’s best non-professional choirs, with a repertoire spanning the Baroque to the present. In that time we have become increasingly aware of the underrepresentation of music written by women and other underrepresented groups. It was for this reason that the Women Composers Development Program was established in 2017 under Coro Innominata’s then musical director Sally Whitwell.

The Program’s first composers, Jos Markerink and Sophie Van Dijk, worked with mentor Jessica Wells on The Interior Castle, a suite of pieces based on the writings of Teresa of Ávila that were performed alongside Tomas Luis de Victoria’s Missa O Quam Gloriosum.

The experience was invaluable for the composers, as Sophie says:

Working with Coro Innominata in 2017 was incredibly timely for me. It was a time of significant growth musically as I was beginning to find my compositional voice. I learnt about writing for community choirs, setting text, and thinking deeply about how to achieve the musical result of my dots and squiggles in the real world. It gave me the opportunity to glimpse working as a composer in a professional context; to learn logistics about score preparation, delivery and management – which is something that is best learnt by doing.

Since the program, I have gone on to participate in Gondwana National Choral School and Australian Youth Orchestra National Music Camp, and was delighted to work with Trinity Grammar as one of their composers-in-residence in 2019. I’ve written a number of choral works for chamber ensembles, children’s choir & I’m now completing my honours year at the Conservatorium. 

In 2022 we were delighted to work with our second pair of composers under Musical Director Margaret Tesch-Muller and composer mentor Clare Maclean. “We had 25 applications from all over Australia, and we could have selected any of them” said our Musical Director, Margaret Tesch-Muller. “Sorting through them was a thoroughly enjoyable challenge for our selection panel. From such a talented field our final choice came down to a combination of fit with the choir, and the passion of the candidates for this particular opportunity. Aija Draguns and Janie Fitch are spectacular composers and we found working with them and their music to be a delight and a challenge.”

Aija and Janie embodied the spirit of the program. Aija as a young woman looking for early chances to develop her skills and Janie as someone who has only recently been able to return to composing after many years and many obstacles. Her rekindling of her passion for composing was reflected in her incredibly rich A New Jerusalem, while Aija’s talent for crafting ethereal choral moments was reflected in Putns ar ugns spārniem. Their works sat alongside a gallery of other pieces in our August 2022 Art & Song program.

We hope to run the third round of the Women Composers Development Program in 2024.