Jonathan Mills (composer)
Sir Jonathan Mills AO (born 21 March 1963) is an Australian composer and festival director. He was born and raised in Sydney and has dual Australian and UK citizenship. His work includes two operas, an oratorio, a ballet, song cycles, concertos, and chamber music. He has directed a number of arts festivals in Australia, and from 2006 to 2014 he was Director of the Edinburgh International Festival.
Jonathan Edward Harland Mills was born in Sydney on 21 March 1963. He has Scottish roots, his maternal grandfather having been a Scot from Partick, and he has dual Australian and British citizenship. His father, Frank Harland Mills AO (1910–2008), was a heart surgeon.
Mills was a Research Fellow and Composer in Residence at RMIT University, Melbourne between 1992 and 1997. He graduated as Master of Architecture at RMIT in 1999, focusing on acoustic design and the role of sound in the built environment. Between 1998 and 2003 he was an Adjunct Professor at RMIT.
Between 1988 and 2003 he was the artistic director of music festivals in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne. These included the Melbourne International Arts Festival, the Melbourne Federation Festival, the Melbourne Millennium Eve Celebrations, and the Brisbane Biennial International Music Festival (inaugural Artistic Adviser 1995–97).
It was during these years that he composed Four First Songs, a song cycle for radio on poems by Martin Harrison, and the ballet The Ethereal Eye, which focussed on the architects who designed and built Canberra as the new capital of Australia. In 1999 came his first chamber opera, The Ghost Wife, to a libretto by Dorothy Porter based on the short story The Chosen Vessel by Barbara Baynton, set in the Australian bush at the beginning of the twentieth century. The opera was premiered at the 1999 Melbourne Festival and had numerous productions in other capitals. It had its London premiere at the Barbican Theatre in November 2002, staged by OzOpera, under conductor Richard Gill. This was believed to be the first Australian opera with an Australian cast to have a London season.
In 2001 he wrote Sandakan Threnody, an oratorio for tenor, choir, and orchestra. It is based on the real-life story of the 2,345 Australian and British prisoners of war who in 1945 were sent on a series of death marches from the Japanese camp in Sandakan, Borneo – only six would survive. It was revised and premiered as part of Sydney Symphony Orchestra's 2004 "Meet the Music" series at the Sydney Opera House, and was later performed at the Singapore, Brisbane and Melbourne Festivals. In 2005 it was awarded the Prix Italia. Mills' father Frank Mills survived incarceration at Sandakan.
In 2003 came Mills' chamber opera The Eternity Man, commissioned as a Genesis Foundation Prize by Almeida/Aldeburgh Opera and premiered in London in July that year. It was based on the life of Arthur Stace. Mills revised it in 2007, and in 2008 Julien Temple filmed it for television with broadcasts by Channel 4 in 2008 and ABC Television in 2009 and funded by them. The film of The Eternity Man won various awards, including Best Experimental Film at Australia's 2008 ATOM Awards, the Judges Award for Best Work of the Year at the Queensland Australian Cinematography Awards and the Swiss Rose d'Or (2009).
He was Vice-Chancellor's (Professorial) Fellow at the University of Melbourne, Director of the Alfred Deakin Lectures and an Artistic Advisor to the Melbourne Recital Centre (including Elisabeth Murdoch Hall).
In the Queen's Birthday Honours (Australia) of 2011, he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia, "for distinguished service to the performing arts as a composer and director of international festivals, through the promotion of cultural exchange, and to public debate".
He was appointed Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Minister of Culture in 2013. He was awarded Gloria Artis - Medal for Merit to Culture, (Zasłużony Kulturze - Gloria Artis) of the Republic of Poland in 2013.
He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Music by the University of Sydney in 2015.
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- University of Sydney. "Frank Harland Mills AO 1910–2008". Retrieved 23 April 2014
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- Thomas, Ellen (15 June 2013), The Herald Scotland. "Edinburgh festival chief delighted by knighthood. Retrieved 23 April 2014
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- It's an Honour: Centenary Medal. Retrieved 23 April 2014
- University of Stirling. Retrieved 23 April 2014
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