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Two ABC legends to receive the Distinguished Services to Australian Music honour

Media Published Tuesday 3 August 2021
Penny Lomax (L) and Maureen Cooney (R), founding producers of RN's The Music Show
  • Penny Lomax and Maureen Cooney, producers of ABC Radio National's The Music Show will be honoured at the 2021 Art Music Awards
  • They have produced the show for almost 30 years, managing guests and directing hosts Christopher Lawrence and Andrew Ford
  • The Art Music Awards will be broadcast on YouTube Premiere on Tuesday 24 August to a worldwide audience

Penny Lomax and Maureen Cooney, the founding producers of ABC Radio National’s iconic program, The Music Show, will be presented with the Richard Gill Award for Distinguished Services to Australian Music at the 2021 Art Music Awards. The ceremony, originally scheduled to take place in Melbourne in mid-August, will now be broadcast to audiences worldwide on Tuesday 24 August via YouTube Premiere.

Lomax and Cooney conceptualised The Music Show 30 years ago, as a nationwide, multi-genre equivalent of state-based classical programs already on air. For two hours each Saturday morning, musicians of all stripes discussed their work and performed, either live in the studio or in outside broadcasts, with an emphasis on new Australian music. The two producers were the program's driving force, selecting guests and researching interviews, pulling strings, editing out gaffes, and making vital on-air decisions when proceedings went awry.

The tight-knit power team had an instinctive understanding of the broadcast medium, of one another, and, above all, of music in all its forms. Under their guidance, the first presenter Christopher Lawrence and his successor, current host Andrew Ford, talked to thousands of musicians, from the ridiculously famous to the delightfully obscure, from street musicians to composers of operas. The Music Show pioneered an ecumenical approach, incorporating classical, jazz, traditional, pop, hip hop, music theatre and a myriad other genres.

It’s fair to say that there has never been a program quite like The Music Show anywhere in the world. For decades, the tireless efforts of these two women promoted new Australian music of all genres to increasingly international audiences.

Penny and Maureen said, “We are hugely chuffed and more than a bit proud. We thank the APRA AMCOS & AMC Boards for rewarding our efforts, and for recognising the contribution that public service broadcasting can make to Australian music and culture, and we thank our ABC colleagues and the myriad Australian musicians who helped us make it.”

The performance program for the 2021 Art Music Awards has been curated by Musical Director Barney McAll and will feature a diverse range of musicians: Art Music Awards finalist Mindy Meng Wang; female jazz quartet Aura; acclaimed cellist Blair Harris; experimental rock band Liars; and Butchulla songman Fred Leone with experimental contrabassist Samuel Pankhurst.

The APRA AMCOS team is busy at work converting an initially live event into a virtual showcase of Australian art music, to be recorded in Melbourne under COVID-safe conditions.