Immortalising joy

Written by Justine Nguyen

How do we honour and hold close the memory of loved ones who have passed away? How do we seek to immortalise the joy they have brought into our lives, so precious and often difficult to capture?  

For longstanding subscriber Kathryn Bennett, approaching Musica Viva Australia to commission a work in tribute to her late, beloved daughter Jennifer Bates was one such way. Both mother and daughter shared a deep love of music, Jennifer an avid salsa dancer and chorister. In fact, the evening before her death in an accident in 2016, Jennifer had attended a rehearsal with the community choir she was a member of, called Stella A Cappella. In a text message to her mother, Jennifer described the experience as “nice and uplifting”.  

Both are words many would use to describe Jennifer herself, a 36-year-old award-winning architect and passionate environmentalist who was embedded in the Newcastle community. Promoted to senior project manager of the NSW Public Works Department in Newcastle days before her death, she had also won a Women in Building Award a few months earlier. Jennifer’s keen environmentalism saw her serve as the coordinator of the Newcastle chapter of Beyond Zero Emissions, a national climate change solutions think-tank, and one of her final projects was overseeing the installation of solar panels at a Public Works office.  

What leisure time Jennifer had she devoted to her artistic pursuits – she met her husband Jordi after they both attended a salsa class in Sydney. This love of salsa she brought to locals in Bhutan when she and Jordi spent twelve months there as volunteers for the Australian government. During this time, she completed her Master’s degree, helped to coordinate an inaugural cultural festival, and became immersed in the Bhutanese culture and Buddhist philosophy.  

These are just some aspects of her daughter’s rich life that Kathryn shared with composer Carl Vine. Musica Viva Australia’s Artistic Director from 2000 – 2019, Carl was already engaged by the company to write a piece for Karin Schaupp to perform in the 2022 season. When Kathryn approached MVA about a commission to honour Jennifer’s memory in 2021, Carl was delighted to combine the two ideas into one work. Initially programmed for Schaupp and the Flinders Quartet to perform as part of the first tour of MVA’s 2022 season, it makes it long awaited world premiere in 2023.  

Further communication between Kathryn and Carl helped shape the final work, titled Endless. The name is a nod to the symbolic knot significant in Buddhism, representing among many things the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth; the intertwining of wisdom and compassion; and the interconnectedness of all things. For Kathryn, the endless knot represents the enduring connection between herself and Jennifer, whose experiences in Bhutan proved life changing. It was in a letter to Carl that Kathryn first mentioned the symbol’s importance to mother and daughter, which Carl has alluded to in the interweaving musical lines of his piece.  

Above all, Endless is a celebration of Jennifer’s life, a mother’s way of remembering the joy her daughter imparted, and the contribution she made, in the time she was given. The commissioning process has been a very positive one for Kathryn, who has appreciated the opportunity to reflect upon and share memories of her daughter. The performances are opportunities to continue Jennifer’s contribution to the world. 

As Kathryn herself wrote to Carl, “Jen was, and remains, my best friend – a wonderful privilege for me as a mother”. 


If you want to discuss commissioning a work, please contact Caroline Davis, Individual Giving Manager at 0421 375 358 or