Photograph by Peter Nolan
Wendy Hiscocks was born in Wollongong, a fast growing town of the 1960s separated from Sydney by miles of National Park. Her childhood garden was a large block of land traversing a small creek that supported a natural habitat and a host of wildlife. The town spread along Australia’s eastern shoreline; there was always the smell of the sea and the sight of long sandy beaches. A rainforest escarpment flanked the other side of Wollongong, wild, and to this day, mostly untouched by human development. Beyond this, on the plateau above, were the expansive vistas of cultivated farmland, huge treks of bushland and fascinating valleys and gorges open to exploration on foot or only accessible from the eye. For Wendy Hiscocks, the land of her childhood into adulthood was a magical place with which she has retained her affinity throughout life.
Like most Australian composers, her first forays into composition were self-guided. After leaving school she moved to Sydney to study with Peter Sculthorpe, the celebrated composer with a deep interest in developing an Australian school of composition. In 1988, she moved to London and has since received premières and broadcasts from distinguished soloists, ensembles, choirs and festivals from around the world. These have included Piers Lane and Roy Howat (piano), Rachel Nicholls and Elizabeth Connell (soprano), Madeleine Mitchell (violin), Michael Collins (clarinet), Sydney Chamber Choir, Jesus College Choir (Cambridge), Schubert Ensemble (London), King’s Lynn and Aldeburgh Festivals (UK), Spitalfields Festival (London), Bangor New Music Festival (Wales), Australian Festival of Chamber Music, Amadeus Festival (Geneva), Radio Suisse Romande, Radio France, ABC Radio and TV, BBC Radio 3 and the British Film Institute.
As a pianist, Wendy has recorded Chabrier’s duo and duet repertoire for Edition Stil with Roy Howat and has performed at venues ranging from London’s Purcell Room to the Kusatsu International Summer Academy and Festival in Japan. She appears as the pianist on a CD of her chamber music on the Symposium label and her skills as a composer-pianist are ideally suited to improvising for silent film at major venues such as BFI South Bank, the Barbican, UK Festivals and Welsh National Opera.
Her love of Australia and Australian music has remained central to her music making. She has completed a doctorate on the music of the Australian composer-pianist, Arthur Benjamin and is in the final stage of completing the first biography; his music has been the focus of lectures and an ABC documentary which she both scripted and presented. Celebrating Australian Music is a natural extension of her life’s work.