29 Sep 2021

John Ritchie remembered

From Upbeat, 12:30 pm on 29 September 2021
John Ritchie 1940s

John Ritchie 1940s Photo: Supplied by Anthony Ritchie

“He was a gregarious person who enjoyed communicating with the general public, and that shaped his musical philosophy.”

This year it's 100 years since the birth of New Zealand composer, conductor and educator, John Ritchie.

Although he’s most closely associated with Christchurch, where he taught at the University of Canterbury for many years, John was born in Wellington (on 29 September 2021) and received his musical education in Dunedin, encouraged by Vernon Griffiths.

He became a vital part of the Christchurch, and wider New Zealand, musical culture. John Ritchie died in 2014 on his 93rd birthday.

Upbeat caught up recently with two people – fellow composers – who have a deep insight into John’s life and music: his son, Anthony Ritchie, and Philip Norman, compiler and editor of the book John Ritchie at 90.



A page from John Ritchie's 'Intrada and tarantella for piano duet' (1955), in his own hand

A page from John Ritchie's 'Intrada and tarantella for piano duet' (1955), in his own hand Photo: Anthony Ritchie

John Ritchie worked with both professional and amateur musicians, and many of his works were commissions including the well-known ‘Papanui Road’, a sound picture of the Christchurch arterial route which held many memories for John as a nearby resident.

His scores, Philip Norman says, were "extremely neat, so that players could actually read the music without having to decipher it."

“John knew the value, being a conductor himself, of having a really neat hand, which, in the end saves so much rehearsal time and so much angst amongst musicians if they can’t read the music.”




Music details:

Concertino in A for clarinet & strings (1), excerpt - Marina Sturm (cl), NZSO Chamber Orch/Donald Armstrong (vln/dir) (TRUST MMT 2040)

Suite No 1 for string orchestra (2), excerpt - NZSO Chamber Orch/Donald Armstrong (TRUST MMT 2040)

Papanui Road, excerpt - New Zealand SO/Marc Taddei (Trust MMT 2040)

Wind, from Four Zhivago Songs - Rebecca Ryan (sop), John van Buskirk (pno) (Ode Records CD Manu 5167)