Brenda Gifford

Melbourne Recital Centre announces recipient of prized Merlyn Myer Music Commission

Melbourne Recital Centre today announced First Nations Yuin woman Brenda Gifford as the recipient of the fifth Merlyn Myer Music Commission, established in memory of Dame Merlyn Myer (1900-1982).

The Merlyn Myer Music Commission enables an Australian female composer to create a new musical work, providing creative freedom and fostering artistic development while providing an opportunity for the composer’s new work to be performed, heard, and recorded in an outstanding performance setting at Melbourne Recital Centre.

Coming from the Wreck Bay area, Brenda’s country, community, and culture are the basis of her arts practice and, as a contemporary classical composer, Brenda has composed a special piece for chamber group Ensemble Offspring titled Wadhu/Skin.

‘This commission opens up possibilities for me to look at different ways to highlight and share my culture through the medium of music,’ said Brenda. ‘The piece I have created is interwoven with spoken word in language, and using language is important to me as it gives voice to our peoples and culture. My goal is to express our connection to each other as people; to our ancestors and to kin and Yuin country,’ Brenda explained.

‘The Merlyn Myer Commission will enable me to develop my composition skills, and I can’t wait to work with Ensemble Offspring who are such a great group along with Claire Edwardes who is very supportive of First Nations music,’ said Brenda.

Brenda’s piece includes short elements of spoken word poetry throughout and is based on the composer’s Wingmurramungoo totem, the White Bellied Sea Eagle, her beautiful, coastal Wreck Bay sea country; and her Wodi Wodi and Yuin culture and heritage.

Wadhu/Skin aims to describe our connections to each other as people; to our ancestors and to kin, family and country, through the eyes and ears of a Yuin woman from the southeast coast of Australia.

Prior to receiving this commission, Brenda’s music has been performed internationally, and closer to home at venues such as the Sydney Opera House and released through ABC Classic. Recently, Brenda finished a Masters in Composition in the Woman in Composition program at Sydney Conservatorium of Music.

Annabel Myer and Rupert Myer AO, on behalf of the Aranday Foundation and Yulgilbar Foundation said: ‘The Melbourne Recital Centre Merlyn Myer Music Commission was created to provide time and space for female composers to develop musical compositions. Through the Commission, we recognise Merlyn Myer who so readily supported women from all walks of life and across many professions. She had a great love of music and was instrumental in the construction of the Sidney Myer Music Bowl. We congratulate Brenda Gifford on being awarded this year’s Commission. Brenda’s collaborative arts practice draws on her country, community, and culture. In this work, the composition that she is planning will be interwoven with spoken word in language and will combine instruments from different times and places. As audiences keenly anticipate attending live performances once again, we can look forward to a composition that connects us through poetic expression and movement to elements of place, people and memory.’

Previous winners of the Merlyn Myer Music Commission include Sally Greenaway in 2015, Andrea Keller in 2017, Deborah Cheetham AO in 2019, and Nat Bartsch in 2021.

The Merlyn Myer Music Commission is generously supported by The Aranday Foundation and The Yulgilbar Foundation.

For further information on the Merlyn Myer Music Commission and to experience the premiere performance of Brenda Gifford’s new work in the Primrose Potter Salon, visit

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