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  • John Ritchie

  • Born: 1921 Deceased: 2014
  • Fully Represented SOUNZ Composer


John Ritchie was born in Wellington, New Zealand, in 1921. He graduated in music at the Otago University and trained as a teacher at Dunedin Teachers’ College. Ritchie served in the navy in World War II and subsequently undertook post-graduate study with Walter Piston at Harvard University from 1956-57.

In 1946 he was appointed to Canterbury University becoming Professor and Head of Music in 1962. Ritchie served as acting and Deputy Vice-Chancellor from 1973-83. During 1967-68 he held a Visiting Professorship at Exeter University and served on the board of Trinity College of Music, London.

He conducted many choirs and, in 1959, formed the John Ritchie String Orchestra and later the Christchurch Civic Orchestra. He guest-conducted the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and for the New Zealand Ballet. In 1974 he was Music Director of the Xth Commonwealth Games and in 1986 the Papal Visit of Pope John Paul. Ritchie was Secretary General of the International Society for Music Education from 1976-84 and its President 1990-92. He was elected an Individual Member of the International Music Council in 1979.

As a composer he is known for choral music, music for brass, concerto-type works, carols and church music. These include “Concertino for Clarinet and Strings”, “Concerto for Saxophone and Small Orchestra”, “Threnody” (brass band), “The Snow Goose” (flute and orchestra), and “Papanui Road Overture” (full orchestra).

John Ritchie was Professor Emeritus at Canterbury University until his death. He was awarded the CANZ Citation for service to New Zealand music in 1992. He had a family of three daughters and two sons. His wife, Anita, a nationally recognised soprano, died in 2001.

John Ritchie passed away on the morning of his 93rd birthday, the 29th of September 2014.

Selected Works

Aquarius: Suite No. 2 for String Orchestra  
Canary Wine cycle for SSAA women's chorus  
Concertino for Clarinet and String Orchestra  
Concerto for Alto Saxophone for E flat saxophone and small orchestra  
Four Zhivago Songs for voice and piano  
Introduction and Allegro for euphonium and piano  
Lord, when the Sense of Thy Sweet Grace for SSATB choir  
Papanui Road concert overture for orchestra  
Partita for brass quintet  
Pisces: Partita Concertante for solo violin and orchestra  


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