Vale Roger Covell
Today we mourn the loss of Roger Covell, leading musicologist, author, performer, patron, visionary, and critic, who died in Sydney this morning aged 88.
Roger’s contribution to Australian music was immeasurable, including his professorship at UNSW, co-founding of the Australia Ensemble, and decades of work as music critic of the Sydney Morning Herald. His achievements and honours are many, and contributions even more extensive, establishing UNSW Opera in 1968, the commissioning of dozens of Australian works for opera and chamber ensemble performance, and championing works unknown to Sydney audiences. Roger first established classical music programs on campus in 1966, where he remained the foremost figure until his retirement from teaching in 1996, and retirement from the role of Artistic Chair of the Australia Ensemble in 2013. He was an energetic and indefatigable educator, and his 1967 scholarly book Australia’s Music: Themes of a New Society remained a principle resource for generations of musicologists and composers.
He was appointed as a Member of the Order of Australia in 1986 in recognition of service to music, awarded the Pascall Prize for Critical Writing in 1993, the Long-Term Contribution to the Advancement of Australian Music at the 2006 Classical Music Awards, and the Sir Bernard Heinze Memorial Award in 2013. His legacy to Australian music and its musicians, musicologists and composers, however, is perhaps the greatest tribute to his extraordinary contribution.
Those fortunate enough to have experienced Roger as an academic, colleague, critic, mentor, and generous host have undoubtedly marvelled at his ability to bring vivid colour to language, and enliven the musical life of Australia. We are forever endebted.
UNSW and the Australia Ensemble extends its sympathies to Roger Covell’s family.