Helen Gifford

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Helen Margaret Gifford (born 5 September 1935) OAM is an Australian composer. On Australia Day (26 January) 1996 she was appointed to the Medal of the Order of Australia, "In recognition of service to music as a composer." At the APRA Music Awards of 2016 she won the category, Distinguished Services to Australian Music.


Helen Gifford was born in Melbourne, Australia, of Scots and Cornish heritage. She attended Tintern Junior School and Melbourne Girls Grammar, and then the University of Melbourne Conservatorium on a Commonwealth Scholarship. She studied with Roy Shepherd and Dorian Le Gallienne, graduating with a Bachelor of Music in 1958. She won the Dorian Le Gallienne Award in 1965, a Senior Composer's Fellowship in 1973, and served as composer-in-residence with the Australian Opera beginning in 1974. In the 1960s and early '70s, her music showed the influence of travel to India and Indonesia.[1][2] At the Australia Day Honours in 1996 she was appointed to the Medal of the Order of Australia, with a citation, "In recognition of service to music as a composer."[3] At the APRA Music Awards of 2016 she won the Art Music Award category, Distinguished Services to Australian Music.[4]


Gifford composes for stage, orchestra, chamber ensemble and solo instruments, often incorporating elements of Balinese and Javanese music.[2] Selected works include:

  • Carol: As dew in Aprille (1955) for voice and piano
  • Fantasy (1958) for flute and piano
  • Piano sonata (1960) for solo piano
  • Skiagram (1963) for flute, viola and vibraphone
  • Phantasma (1963) for string orchestra
  • Chimaera (1967) for orchestra
  • Imperium (1969) for orchestra
  • Of old Angkor (1970) for French horn and marimba
  • Regarding Faustus (1983)
  • Iphigenia in Exile (1985)
  • Music for the Adonia (1993) for chamber ensemble
  • Point of Ignition (1995) for mezzo-soprano and orchestra (text: Jessica Aldridge)
  • Choral Scenes: the Western Front, World War I (1999)
  • As foretold to Khayyám (1999) for piano solo
  • Catharsis (2001) choral work
  • Menin Gate (2005) for piano solo
  • The Tears of Things (2010) for speaker and choir
  • Shiva the auspicious one (2012) for piano solo
  • Parvati and Celebrations of the Apsaras (2013) for clarinet solo
  • Desperation (2015) for viola solo
  • Undertones of War (2015) for piano solo


  1. ^ "Gifford, Helen (1935-)". Retrieved 13 December 2010.
  2. ^ a b Sadie, Julie Anne; Samuel, Rhian (1994). The Norton/Grove dictionary of women composers (Digitized online by GoogleBooks). Retrieved 13 December 2010.
  3. ^ "Award Extract – Name: Gifford, Helen Margaret". It's an Honour. Retrieved 22 May 2018.
  4. ^ "Distinguished Services to Australian Music". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA) | Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society (AMCOS) | Australian Music Centre (AMC). 2016. Retrieved 22 May 2018.