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Philip Hodgson


Born: 1935 Died: 1964


Philip Hodgson was born on 17th November 1935 and died on 9th December I964.

Philip was the third of a family of four, born in Gisborne to Elizabeth and her husband John, an Anglican vicar in the country parish of Te Karaka. He was named after his godfather who was an organist and Philip followed in his footsteps. Music was an important part of the family's life and Philip showed an early aptitude and keenness, first learning the piano for three years from his mother, before going to Wanganui Collegiate in Form Three, where he learned piano from Gordon McBeth.

When the family moved to Dunedin in 1953, Philip started piano lessons with Maurice Till, with whom he continued for five years while he was also studying at Otago University. He was organist and choirmaster at his father's church at Holy Cross in St Kilda. Parishioners enjoyed his playing so much that some came early to church to listen to his voluntaries. In 1957 Philip completed both the degrees of Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Music with Second Class Honours. He was awarded the Sterne Prize for Stage Two English in December 1957 and the Philip Neill Memorial Prize for Composition in December 1958. Part of this prize should have been a performance; however there was no-one in New Zealand at the time with the technique to play it.

For a year and a half, Philip laboured in a factory to pay back a teaching studentship he did not wish to pursue, and to save his fare to London. He went in mid 1959 and spent the first six months in isolation, only writing music. Then he taught at secondary schools in East London, where he also had a position as organist. He studied composition with the composer Ian Hamilton. He taught evening classes in musical appreciation for London University's Department of Extra-Mural Studies, where he was admired by Geoffrey Bush. He also taught at Westonbirt Summer School (Gloucestershire) a few months before he died. He spoke then of studying music further, probably in order to teach at a University.

In 1962 Philip exhibited symptoms of leukaemia and died two years later in 1964, just after his 29th birthday. He taught until a week before he died. His passion was music and he continued writing while he was teaching and until shortly before his death. He had a fabulous sense of humour and was loved as a unique individual who did not compromise his integrity in his life or in his compositions. He did not hear his music performed, except as he played it on the piano. The recording of the violin and piano piece was organised by his sister Miriam with the pianist John Tilbury after Philip's death. A small chapel is dedicated to his memory in the parish church at Wickhambrook in Suffolk where his parents had their ministry at that time, and where he is buried.

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