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John Ritchie

John Ritchie is one of New Zealand’s senior composers. He has created a body of work which, while less well-known is loved and enjoyed by performers and audiences alike for its deft craftsmanship and pleasing melodic grace.

Recordings featuring John Ritchie

Island Song: Beautiful New Zealand Music
New Zealand music compilation

MMT2044, Released 2010
 
Ritchie: Aquarius
Symphonic music by Ritchie

MMT2040, Released 2002
 
Taurangi: New Zealand Music for Flute and Piano
New Music for Flute and Piano

MMT2063-64, Released 2006
 
Winds That Whisper
New Zealand choral music from the 20th century

MMT2016, Released 1999
 

Biography

At the age of twelve, and parentless, John Ritchie had the good fortune to attend King Edward Technical College in Dunedin. Under the guiding hand of Vernon Griffiths, Ritchie showed promise both as a performer and composer. He furthered his studies in music at Otago University, completing his degree before travelling to the United Kingdom to serve as a pilot during the Second World War. On his return he was appointed lecturer in music at the University of Canterbury, beginning an academic career which spanned forty years.

During this time Ritchie wrote a substantial body of music, much of it written for particular performers and special occasions. The early years were dominated by vocal works (such as the Twelve Three-Part Songs (1955), published by Novello), reflecting his involvement as a conductor with community choirs at this time. However, Ritchie’s increasing interest in orchestras in the 1950s led to him composing works such as the Suite No.1 for Strings (1956) and Concertino for Clarinet and Strings (1957), which were performed by the Alex Lindsay String Orchestra of Wellington. He established the John Ritchie String Orchestra in 1958, and this group performed regularly over a period of several years. At the height of his conducting career Ritchie performed with the National Orchestra, directing works such as Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra.

Ritchie’s busy teaching and conducting career, plus his commitment to a family of five children (one of whom is composer Anthony Ritchie), meant there was less time for composing in the 1960s and 70s. He has expressed some regrets about this, but, as he has said, “it is the way it has had to be”. Despite this, there are significant works from this period such as the elegant Four Zhivago Songs (1977). Ritchie’s output increased in the 1980s as his university work wound down, with works including Aquarius: Suite No.2 for Strings (1982), Pisces: Partita Concertante for Violin and Orchestra (1984) and the Saxophone Concerto (1998).

Ritchie still lives in Christchurch, New Zealand.



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