George Palmer was born in 1947. He graduated in Arts and Law from Sydney University in 1970 and practised as a solicitor specializing in commercial law. In 1974 he was called to the Bar and in 1986 he became a Queens Counsel. He was a Judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales from 2001 to 2011.
As a youth, Palmer studied piano with Frank Warbrick and Neta Maughan, both eminent teachers. He has been composing since he was a teenager but never sought to have his music performed. By chance, his music came to the attention of the ABC in 2003, resulting in an episode of Australian Story on ABC TV in 2004, a live broadcast by ABC FM of a concert of his orchestral music and the release by ABC Classics of a CD of his music, Attraction of Opposites.
Since then, he has received many commissions. A Mass, A Child is Born, for choir, soloists and orchestra, was commissioned by Ars Musica Australis in 2005 and was recorded by ABC Classics with Cantillation and Sinfonia Australis, conducted by Dr Paul Stanhope. The CD, Exaltate Dominum, released in 2007, contains Palmer’s other choral works, also performed by Cantillation.
Other works include: Not Going Quietly, premiered by The Sydney Omega Ensemble in 2007; Concerto for Two Clarinets and Chamber Orchestra, performed by Dimitri Ashkenazy, David Rowden and The Sydney Omega Ensemble; The Beancounter, for the West Australian Youth Orchestra; a song cycle for baritone and piano, Letters from a Black Snake, commissioned for the opening of the Sidney Nolan Retrospective at the New South Wales Art Gallery and the National Gallery of Victoria; a piano quartet, The Way It Is, for The Seraphim Trio; a Clarinet Sonata, Black, White and a Little Blue, premiered in The Utzon Room at The Sydney Opera House by David Rowden in 2010. His works have been performed by orchestras and chamber groups in Australia, the United States and Europe and receive frequent airplay on classical music stations.
In July 2007 Palmer was commissioned to write the Papal Mass for World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney. The Mass, Benedictus Qui Venit, for large choir, soloists and orchestra, was performed in the presence of the Pope and an audience of 350,000 with soloists Amelia Farrugia, soprano, and Andrew Goodwin, tenor, directed by Benjamin Bayl.
His most recent work, Cloudstreet, an opera adapted by Palmer from Tim Winton’s classic novel was premiered on 12 May 2016 by State Opera of South Australia with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra conducted by Timothy Sexton the artistic director of SOSA and directed by Gale Edwards. The opera was hailed as “a resounding triumph” (The Australian) and received standing ovations from capacity audiences.
From 2004 – 2015 Palmer was the Chairman of Pacific Opera Company, a not-for profit company established to give Australia’s best young singers professional development and exposure. From 2004 – 2011 he was President of the Arts Law Centre of Australia a government funded body which provides free legal and business advice to artists in all media throughout Australia. He is also a director of Ars Musica Australis. In 2010 Palmer was made a Member of the Order of Australia “for service to the law as a judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, and to music as a composer and through leadership roles with a range of cultural bodies.”
Palmer is married with three children and lives in Sydney.