Dr Brett McKern was born in Sydney, but has also spent some years working in the UK. He returned to Sydney in 1997 and now works as a composer, arranger, conductor, organist, liturgist, academic and lecturer. He is presently Organist and Director of Music at St John’s Church Gordon. Previous appointments have included Assistant Director of Music at St James’ Church King Street Sydney, Director of The Cathedral Singers, and Organist and Head of Chapel Music at Trent College in the UK, as well as being national Chair of the Guild of Church Musicians for ten years.
Brett holds degrees in music, education and theology and two doctorates in musical composition. Brett’s early education involved being a chorister in a school chapel choir in the English cathedral tradition and this has greatly influenced his compositional output, much of it being for choir, sometimes with organ accompaniment. His work within church music includes simple music for congregation, such as his hymn tune Harcourt, published in the USA, through congregational mass settings and service music, and music for cantor to complex works for professional choirs such as those performed and recorded by St James’ Church Choir, Sydney and The Cathedral Singers. His music has been broadcast on radio in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, and Brett has won awards and prizes for his work as a church music composer. He is regularly commissioned for sacred and secular music compositions, and has published over fifty compositions in Australia and abroad.
As an academic, Brett has lectured at the Universities of Sydney, Wollongong and Western Sydney, the Australian Institute of Music and St John’s Theological College Morpeth NSW. His publications, in addition to musical compositions, include reviews of concerts and CDs for journals and articles on church music. He has also been editor of the Guild of Church Musicians’ Australian journal, Jubilate. Brett is called on as an examiner of university theses, compositions and performances and examines written music subjects for the Australian Music Examinations Board (AMEB). He is also an S.S. Wesley and Herbert Howells scholar.
Brett’s work as a performer has included choral direction and organ performance (as a soloist and accompanist). He is dedicated to the performance of modern works and Australian works in particular (and has commissioned numerous new works for choir), and makes a specialty of improvisation at the organ. As an organist he has been broadcast on ABC-FM and 2MBS-FM and recorded for DVD and CD, and was the organist for the soundtrack for the movie Animal Kingdom. As a choir director he has performed extensively in Australia, Germany and the UK: in many Sydney and Australian churches and cathedrals as well as places such as Bath and Westminster Abbeys, St John’s College Chapel in Cambridge, York Minster, and Ely, Leicester, St Edmundsbury, Ripon, Peterborough, Salisbury, Portsmouth, Wells, Norwich, Lichfield, Bristol, Durham and St Paul’s Cathedrals in England.