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Red Contributor

Christopher Blake


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Born: 1949


Christopher Blake’s compositions encompass a wide variety of music. He has undertaken commissions for all the major music organisations in New Zealand including the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, Southern Sinfonia, Mercury Opera and Chamber Music New Zealand and for a range of performers and ensembles. His music is regularly heard in concerts and broadcasts and overseas including orchestral performances in Australia, Finland, Germany, Mexico and the United States of America.

His works have attracted wide critical acclaim and include: Till Human Voices Wake Us (1986) for orchestra and tenor soloist; a piano concerto The Coming of Tane Mahuta (1987); Clairmont Triptych (1988) for piano and wind quintet which was New Zealand’s entry in the 1989 UNESCO Rostrum of Composers in Paris; Bitter Calm an opera in 2 Acts premiered at the 1994 New Zealand International Festival of the Arts; Symphony – The Islands (1996); a violin concerto Concerto Aoraki premiered in 2006 and a set of works for string orchestra, Northland Panels which includes Angel at Ahipara (2000), Night Journey to Pawarenga (2005) and Anthem on the Kaipara (2007).

A television version of the opera Bitter Calm was telecast nationally in December 1994. A number of works have also been released on compact disc including Till Human Voices Wake Us; The Coming of Tane Mahuta; an orchestral work The Lamentations of Motuarohia; and chamber works Sounds – an evocation of Tahuahua Queen Charlotte Sound, Clairmont Triptych and Little Dancings for flute and piano. Works for piano feature on a CD ‘Ribbonwood is Home’. A CD of orchestral works ‘The Islands’ was released in 2003.

Christopher’s Angel at Ahipara, recorded by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra with conductor Kenneth Young, won Best Classical Album at the 2012 New Zealand Music Awards. In 2016 Christopher received a commission from the NZSO, resulting in his second symphony Voices, based on the seminal poem The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot.

Christopher Blake was born in Christchurch, New Zealand in 1949. He completed a Bachelor of Engineering (Hons) degree at the University of Canterbury (NZ) before resuming an early interest in music. After graduating from the University of Canterbury School of Music he left New Zealand to travel and to further his studies, undertaking post-graduate studies in composition at the University of Southampton School of Music from which he graduated in 1976.

He has held a number of posts in arts management in New Zealand including Manager of the Canterbury Orchestra, General Manager of the National Opera of New Zealand and the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra and Manager of Concert FM at Radio New Zealand. He was foundation Chief Executive of New Zealand’s Ministry of Culture & Heritage for six years before spending five years as head of the National Library of New Zealand. From 2002 – 2007 he was Chief Executive of Internal Affairs, a department of the government of New Zealand, and was Chief Executive and Secretary of the Department of Labour. He is currently the Chief Executive of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.

Works (35)

A Viola on Skye

for solo viola, 9m

Ancient Journeys

three pieces for solo piano, 19m

Angel at Ahipara

for string orchestra, 11m

Anthem on the Kaipara

for string orchestra, 14m

Aria: A Dawn Song

for solo flute, 3m


fanfare for orchestra, 3m

Bitter Calm

opera in two acts for soloists, chorus and orchestra, 1h 30m

Black on White

for piano, 10m

Bullmore's Accolade

for brass quintet, 11m

Christ at Whangape

for string orchestra, 18m

Clairmont Triptych

for wind quintet and piano, 15m

Concerto Aoraki

concerto for violin and orchestra, 38m

Echelles de Glace

fanfare for orchestra, 9m

Four Minutes to Midnight

for string orchestra, string quartet and 1 percussionist, 18m

Leaving the Plains of C

for chamber orchestra, 10m

Little Dancings

for flute and piano, 15m


for brass band, 11m

Night Journey To Pawarenga

for string orchestra, 13m

No. 3. Regions

for wind quintet, 13m


for wind quintet, 14m

Ribbonwood is Home (Series 1)

5 pieces for piano, 23m

Ribbonwood is Home (Series 2)

three pieces for piano, 18m

Symphony - The Islands

for orchestra, 43m

Symphony - Voices

for orchestra

Te Karanga o te Putatara

fanfare for orchestra, 4m

Te Tangi o te Tui me te Korimako

fanfare for orchestra, 4m

The Coming of Tane Mahuta

concerto for piano and orchestra, 28m

The Furnace of Pihanga

for full orchestra, 9m

The Lamentations of Motuarohia

for chamber orchestra, 14m

Till Human Voices Wake Us

for tenor voice and orchestra, 17m

Towards Peace

for solo clarinet, 11m

Tranquilla Sia L'onda

for wind octet, 7m

We all fall down

for full orchestra, 9m