A celebration of Lilburn, an 'extraordinary man'

Dr Philip Norman
Dr Philip Norman
The University of Otago will celebrate New Zealand music this weekend with a centenary commemoration of composer Douglas Lilburn's life and work.

Rebecca Fox talks to Dr Philip Norman about New Zealand's ''unsung hobby''.

Like many of New Zealand's impressive figures, the late composer Douglas Lilburn had educational links to Otago.

He was educated at Waitaki Boys High School (1930-33) - he even wrote the school's song - and received an honorary doctorate from the University of Otago in 1969.

Composer Dr Philip Norman will reveal many interesting facts about Lilburn during a talk in Dunedin this weekend to mark 100 years since Lilburn was born.

Dr Norman wrote a book about Lilburn's life and music, which was published in 2007 to much acclaim.

His interest in Lilburn began when studying music at university and, discovering he could not study composing at doctorate level, studied composers instead, discovering how surprising it was that Lilburn existed at all.

''Back then we did not know much about our own composers. New Zealand was a different place in the '70s.''

He discovered Lilburn was passionate about composing in New Zealand and the need for the country to have its own composers.

''He was prepared to work hard behind the scenes for other composers. He was an advocate for the subject, for copyright and publishing other composers' work.

''He was extremely active but also someone not seeking public acknowledgement for what he did behind the scenes.''

Dr Norman described Lilburn as an ''extraordinary man'' who achieved highly as a creative person but also as a promoter of New Zealand music.

There had been an upsurge of interest in composition in recent times, which in large part was due to Lilburn and students he lectured at university.

The growth in the internet over the past 15 years had also helped stimulate growth and awareness in composition.

''It has almost become New Zealand's great unsung hobby, especially if you include songwriting in that.''

The Lilburn talk by Dr Norman will be followed by performances by University of Otago classical performance staff.

On Sunday, Gillian Bibby will present a New Zealand piano retrospective with Terence Dennis on piano.

 Dr Norman is being invested as a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to music and musical theatre in Wellington tomorrow night.

To see

New Zealand Music Weekend: A New Zealand Music Retrospective, Marama Hall, September 12 (Lilburn) and 13 (piano).

Add a Comment