Australian Cypriot musician Paul Nicolaou to appear at the Sydney Opera house

Young Australian Cypriot  Paul Nicolaou is set to feature in two upcoming concerts with the Australian Youth Orchestra (AYO), in what is the world premiere performance of acclaimed composer Nigel Westlake’s piece ‘Ngapa William Cooper’.

The concerts take place on Sunday 9 July at Canberra’s Llewellyn Hall and at the Sydney Opera House on Monday 10 July 2023, with Paul Nicolaou as the sole harpist.

Paul Nicolaou whose father is from Myrtou in Cyprus is an emerging harpist and composer based in Sydney, Australia. He has quickly gained international recognition as a virtuosic young artist, receiving the Most Outstanding Performer Award at the 2022 Sydney Harp Eisteddfod, 2021 Monash University Emerging Composer Prize, Highly Commended Award in Willoughby Symphony’s 2023 Composer Competiton, and was a winner of the 2022 Artology ‘Fanfare’ Competition.

Paul was also shortlisted for numerous accolades including the Kendall Violin Competition 2023 Watermark Composition and ABC Classic’s 2022 Composer Commissioning Fund. Additionally, Paul was one of four composers between ages 16-30 to participate in the Australian Youth Orchestra’s 2022 Composition Program, and one of three to be selected for the 2023 Ku-ring-gai Philharmonic Composer Workshop.

Paul’s work has been widely acclaimed, the Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music, Monash University, noting it “stood out as an exceptional example of both compositional craft and musicality”. Paul also has experience composing for the screen, his original score for short film ‘Yannis’ receiving nomination for Best Original Score (Made in the West Film Festival). 

Paul’s works have been performed by notable emerging and established artists such as Sydney Youth Orchestras, musicians of the Sydney, Melbourne and Queensland Symphony Orchestras; and in 2023, the Ku-ring-gai Philharmonic Orchestra. 

Paul studies at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music under the tutelage of internationally celebrated harpist Alice Giles AM. He has quickly established himself as an accomplished and sought-after performer, appearing as Principal Harpist of the Australian Youth Orchestra, Willoughby Symphony Orchestra, Sydney Symphony Fellowship Ensemble, Sydney Conservatorium Orchestra and The Sydney Youth Orchestra.  

Paul’s artistry has been widely acknowledged, Mark Walton expressing “[Paul] plays with a profound musicality… This skill usually takes years to develop, and he understands it already. Every single note he played fitted into this glorious soundscape…”. 

Paul has performed at numerous prestigious international venues including the Sydney Opera House, St Peter’s Basilica (Vatican City), Hamer Hall, and the Queensland Performing Arts Centre. He has given world premieres of works by internationally recognised composers such as Elena Kats-Chernin, Andrew Ford, and in 2023, Nigel Westlake. 

Composition Inspiration

When hearing the word ‘Fanfare’, we often associate this with typical conventions of a ceremonial entrance tune, featuring majestic brass and warm major chords. I wanted to create a work which escaped the traditional boundaries of these conventions, and felt inspired to do so by incorporating musical elements of my Greek-Cypriot background, and surrounding Eastern music.

I sought to create a work which still performs the same purpose of a traditional fanfare – a short piece of music designed to capture the attention of audiences, however infused with the music of my cultural heritage.

Following a short rhythmic introduction, the entrance of the first melody features harmonies and modality commonly found in Middle Eastern music, with the flattened and raised second and third scale degrees respectively. After hearing this haunting melody, the orchestra then breaks into a sequence of unpredictable time signature changes – a dance. This section is inspired by my experiences growing up surrounded by Greek dancing. Rather than the music religiously following one particular traditional dance, I’ve incorporated several elements of different Greek dances; the 7/8 bars reminiscent of the Kalamatianos, and the powerful 2/4 bars evoking a room full of joyful dancers performing two energetic stomps.


Picture of Michael Yiakoumi

Michael Yiakoumi

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