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The Composer Speaks - Flood, Australian Concerto for Tenor Saxophone

image of David Keeffe David Keeffe

My name is David Keeffe, originally from the UK but now Australian, and a fellow horn-player.

I'm also a composer, and recently was commissioned to write a saxophone concerto for a fine local player called Jason Xanthoudakis.

I wrote it for tenor sax, since I feel that it is a great instrument not-so-well-catered-for in the concerto department. Jason premiered it last week with Melbourne's Grainger Wind Symphony, conducted by Roland Yeung, in a concert celebrating their 25th anniversary and marking the 50th anniversary of Percy Grainger's death.

It was an honour to present the only work not by PG in that program. Obviously, I'd like the work to reach a wider audience. Do you have any suggestions? It is a virtuoso piece for the soloist, and tricky in places for the band, but otherwise quite approachable.

The Grainger Wind Symphony presents

Australian Made

Our concert marks the 50th anniversary of Percy Grainger's death, and celebrates our own 25th anniversary.

The concert features many of Percy Grainger's works, including his masterpiece "Lincolnshire Posy", and the world premiere of 'The Undone Years', a concerto for tenor saxophone and band by Melbourne composer David Keeffe.

Featured artists: The Grainger Wind Symphony conducted by Roland Yeung, with Jason Xanthoudakis, Saxophone.

Date: Saturday 26 February 2011

Click here for a performance of the last movement of Flood

David Keeffe

At age 6, David Keeffe met Benjamin Britten, and shook his hand. Perhaps it was inevitable that he would eventually become a composer, too.

David was born into a musical family in London but has called Melbourne home since 1997.
He attended Dulwich College, an English Public School founded by Edward Alleyn, one of Shakespeare's leading men, and well-known for its music and drama, and then went to Trinity College of Music where he studied composition with John Tavener and horn with John Burden.

A move to the University of York was intended to continue his composition work but for reasons that are still unclear, the muse departed; instead he developed an interest in computers and their musical applications, while continuing to play the horn and to conduct. David was for a while the conductor of the university Gilbert and Sullivan Society, and of the York Philharmonic Male Voice Choir and principal horn with the York Guildhall Orchestra, where he also performed Richard Strauss' Horn Concerto no 2.

The interest in computers was such that David "crossed the floor" and undertook postgraduate study in computer science, leading to a doctorate in that discipline, and a continuing career.

In 1997 David took an opportunity to live and work in Australia with his family. With a young family starting their own musical journey, and encouragement from his wife, the scene was set for the muse's return. From that point a stream of new works appeared, initially for brass, and especially for horn, and then for other ensembles. Opportunities from community and educational groups increased his motivation, with workshops and performances from Oakleigh City Band, Maroondah Symphony Orchestra, the Grainger Wind Symphony and Melbourne Youth Music's MYO and MYSB, all of whose support is gratefully acknowledged.

In 2006 David re-sat the FTCL examination in Horn Performance (which he failed in London!) and included two of his own works. He passed! Also in 2006 David won the prize for "The Eleventh Day" a new slow march for brass band at the Melbourne International Festival of Brass, and was a finalist for the quick march with "Emerald Hill". That inspired him to return to study, and in 2010 completed his Master of Music in composition at the University of Melbourne, working primarily with Julian Yu. In one of the earliest "Live at the Convent" programs on 3MBS, David's Octet for Horns was premiered live to air. Subsequently his "Four Haiku" for tenor and piano were broadcast in the same series.

Recently, David has had works played by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, the Defence Force School of Music Band, the Grainger Wind Symphony and the Guildhall School of Music Horn Choir. David's most recent work is The Undone Years, a saxophone concerto written for Jason Xanthoudakis at his invitation, and continues a fascination with the poetry of Wilfred Owen. Unusually it exists in two forms - one, subtitled Fire, uses a string orchestra, piano and timpani, while the other - Flood - is scored for symphonic band. While the basic music structure is the same, the mood and effect of each version is quite different. The composer likens Fire to an engraving, and Flood to a painting in acrylics.

David Keeffe can be seen regularly as a performer with groups in Melbourne as conductor, horn player and soloist

Home page David Keefe