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Biography

  • Born

    18 June 1933

  • Born In

    Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

  • Died

    3 January 2018 (aged 84)

Colin Brumby (18 June 1933 – 3 January 2018) was an Australian composer and conductor.

Brumby was born in Melbourne and educated at the Glen Iris State School, Spring Road Central School, and Melbourne Boys' High School. He studied at the University of Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, from which he graduated in 1957 with a diploma in education. In 1953 he was a finalist in the Australian Youth Aria competition, eventually winning the Lieder Award. He was organist at St. Oswald's Glen Iris from 1950 to 1953. Before travelling to Europe in 1962 he taught in Queensland schools and was for a time the head of music at Kelvin Grove Teacher's College. He went to Spain to study advanced composition with Philipp Jarnach, and to London to study with Alexander Goehr. On his return to Australia, he joined the staff of the Music Department at the University of Queensland, and was based in Brisbane ever since. He became Associate Professor with the University of Queensland, from which he retired in 1998. He, along with Philip Bračanin, are two Brisbane-based composers who have attained an international reputation, beginning in the 1970s, although more recently, composers such as Gerard Brophy, Stephen Cronin, Robert Davidson, Kent Farbach, Stephen Leek, Peter Rankine and Nigel Sabin have attained renown.

Brumby was Musical Director of the Queensland Opera Company from 1968 to 1971. While there, he conducted the Australian premieres of works such as Joseph Haydn's L'infedeltà delusa and Georges Bizet's Le docteur Miracle. He also wrote a series of children's operettas, including The Wise Shoemaker (1968) Rita and Dita and the Pirate (1969), Rita and Dita in Toyland (1969) and The Prince Who Couldn't Laugh (1969). These operettas toured throughout Queensland by the Queensland Opera Company, and were performed in 400 schools, reaching an audience of 75,000.

In 1965 his work, Fibonacci Variations (1963) was selected for possible inclusion in the programmes of contemporary music, to be produced the International Society for Contemporary Music Festival. In 1971, he received his Doctorate of Music from the University of Melbourne. In 1972 he returned overseas to study composition with Franco Evangelisti in Rome. After his return to Australia, Musica Viva Australia commissioned Brumby to compose a work for the 1974 tour of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields. This was The Phoenix and the Turtle for string orchestra and harpsichord.

He won a number of awards. In 1969 he won the Albert H. Maggs Composition Award, composing the work A Ballade for St. Cecilia : Cantata for Chorus, Orchestra and Soloists. In 1981 Brumby was awarded an Advance Australia Award for services to music. He has also won the Don Banks Fellowship (1990) and the APRA award for most performed Australasian serious work.

Brumby's music includes operas; concerti for flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn, trumpet, piano, violin, viola, and guitar; two symphonies; orchestral suites and overtures; chamber works; sonatas for flute, clarinet and bassoon; incidental music for dramatic presentations; film and ballet scores; and songs.

His wife Jenny Dawson has contributed libretti for some of his operettas.

His personal papers and oral history are held at the State Library of Queensland.

Colin Brumby died in Brisbane on 3 January 2018.

Stage works
The Wise Shoemaker (lib. Brumby), children's operetta (1968, Brisbane)
Rita and Dita and the Pirate (lib. Brumby, after the brothers Grimm), children's operetta (1969, Brisbane)
Rita and Dita in Toyland (lib. Brumby), children's operetta, 1 Act (1970, Rockhampton)
The Two Suitors (lib. Brumby), children's operetta, 1 Act (1970, Rockhampton)
The Seven Deadly Sins – a New Concept of Music Theatre (lib. Brumby, Thomas Shapcott, Meryn Moriarty), 2-act opera (1970, Brisbane)
The Marriage Machine (lib. Brumby), 1-act opera (1972, Sydney); 1985 arranged for orchestra
La Donna (lib. David Goddard), 1-act opera (1988, Sydney)
Summer Carol (lib. Thomas Shapcott), 1-act opera (1991, Canberra)
The Heretic (lib. Morris West after his play)
The Bunyip, operetta
The Haunted House of Highgate Hill, operetta
The Spirit of Eureka, operetta

Ballets
Alice (commissioned by Queensland Ballet, 1989)

Orchestral works
The Phoenix and the Turtle (1974; string orchestra and harpsichord)
Litanies of the Sun
Fibonacci Variations (1963)
Paean (1982; a showpiece for the Sydney Symphony Orchestra during the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's 50th Anniversary celebrations in 1982)
South Bank Overture (1984; commissioned for the 1984 opening of the Concert Hall in the Queensland Cultural Centre)
Borromeo Suite
Scena for cor anglais and orchestra
Mediterranean Suite, string orchestra
Concertino, viola and string orchestra (1960)
Viola Concerto Tre aspetti di Roma, viola and orchestra (1990)

Choral works
Victimae Paschali (commissioned by Pro Musica in Brisbane)
Three Baroque Angels (commissioned for the 30th Intervarsity Choral Festival)
Cantata Charlie Bubbles' Book of Hours (for an Australian UNESCO Seminar on Music Education)
This is the Vine (for the 40th International Eucharistic Congress)
Cantata The Ballad of Sydney Hospital (commemorating the Bicentenary of the Sydney Hospital)
Aquinas: Two Eucharistic Texts for solo or unison choir and organ
From All That Dwell (Isaac Watts) for two-part choir with keyboard
The Fruitless Fig (text by Brumby) for SATB choir and organ
Give Judgment for Me, O Lord (Psalm 26) for SATB choir and organ
How Lovely Are Thy Dwellings Fair! (John Milton) for SATB choir and organ
In Praise of the Virgin (13th century British text) for SATB choir a cappella
Iustorum animæ (Scripture) SATB a cappella
Nine Tenebræ Responsories, 3 vols., for 2-part choir and organ
"Missa Sanctae Ceciliae" for SATB choir and organ (commissioned by the Choir of Saint John the Evangelist's Anglican Church, Dee Why)
O My People (the Reproaches) for 2-part choir and organ
Prisquam gallus cantet (Matthew 26:75) SATB a cappella
Stabat mater dolorosa (Traditional sequence) for SATB choir and organ (or strings)
Stabat mater speciosa (1965)
Ten New Carols for Advent and Christmas
Teach Me, O Lord (Psalm 119:33–40) for SATB choir and organ
Three Sacred Rounds (4-part)
Two Easter Anthems (text Brumby) for SATB choir and organ
Unto Us A Boy Is Born (traditional text) for SATB choir and keyboard
* All Glory, Laud and Honour, choral prelude

Chamber works
The Seven Ages of Man, wind quintet
String quartet (1968)
Piano quartet
Bassoon quintet
4 Exotic Pieces, flute and harp
Suite for contrabass quartet
4 Aphorisms, clarinet and piano
4 Miniatures, flute and piano
4 simple duos, descant recorders
Abendlied, viola and piano (2001)
Berceuse, Chaconne, Nocturne, viola and piano
Etude, solo viola
Mediterranean Suite, viola quartet and double bass (1956)
Passacaglia, viola ensemble (7 violas) and piano
Sonatina, viola and piano (1982)

Piano
Harlequinade

Organ
5 Chorale Preludes
7 Chorale Preludes
Captain Logan's Fancy
"Theme and Variations on Moreton Bay"
Toccata

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