Anthony Ritchie
Anthony Ritchie.jpg
Anthony Ritchie 2017
NationalityNew Zealand
OccupationComposer, university professor

Anthony Damian Ritchie (born 18 September 1960) is a New Zealand composer and academic. He has been a freelance composer accepting commissions for works and in 2018 he became professor of composition at The University of Otago after 18 years of teaching composition. Since 2020 he has been head of Otago's School of Performing Arts, a three year position. His works number over two hundred, and include symphonies, operas, concertos, choral works, chamber music and solo works.

Early life

Ritchie was born in Christchurch in 1960.[1] He is the son of John Ritchie, who was a professor teaching composition and orchestration at the University of Canterbury.[1][2] His mother was a soprano soloist and he began learning the piano at the age of nine, showing early aptitude for improvisation.[1]


Ritchie began composing when still at school, attending St Bede's College in Christchurch.[1] He completed his BMus with honours in 1981 at the University of Canterbury.[1] He studied the influence of folk music on some of Béla Bartók's works in Hungary in 1983, as well as composition with Attila Bozay and Zsolt Serei.[1] He completed his Ph.D. on the music of Béla Bartók in 1987.[1][3]


In 1987 Ritchie was Composer-in-Schools in Christchurch and in 1988–1989 Mozart Fellow at the University of Otago.[1] He then became a freelance composer accepting a number of commissions.[4] These included Theme and Variations - the search which premiered in June 1998 in Dunedin, From the Southern Marches commissioned by George Griffiths of Otago Heritage Books and premiered in March 1998, Revelation commissioned by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and performed in Christchurch and Wellington in 1998, a guitar concerto commissioned by the Auckland Philharmonia and played by guitarist Matthew Marshall, and dances Shoal Dance and Leaf.[4] He has written for many other performers including Michael Houstoun and Wilma Smith.[4][5]

Over the years Ritchie has collaborated with a number of writers such as Stuart Hoar, Keri Hulme and librettist Jeremy Commons. Star Fire (1995), written with Hoar, was Ritchie's first opera. It was futuristic with a sci-fi theme for primary and intermediate age school children, commissioned by Class Act Opera in Auckland who performed opera in schools. It also had environmental and Māori themes.[6] A further collaboration with Hoar produced Quartet (2004), a comic operetta examining the lives of classical musicians on tour in New Zealand. The production included a string quartet on stage.[7] He worked with novelist Keri Hulme on an opera Ahua (2000), the story of the Ngāi Tahu ancestor Moki. It was commissioned by the Christchurch City Choir.[8] In 2004 he collaborated with Jeremy Commons on The God Boy an opera based on the novel by Ian Cross.[9][10] It was performed by Opera Otago for the Otago Festival of the Arts.[10] Ritchie set works by Dunedin poet Elena Poletti to create Lullabies (2015) which were originally commissioned and performed by the Auckland Choral society.[11]

Ritchie, while not a gamelan player, was attracted to the sounds of gamelan and used gamelan scales in his symphony Boum (1993) and in his piano piece 24 Preludes (2002).[12] 24 Preludes display many different musical influences: neo-Romantic composers, a range of time signatures, contrapuntal and harmonic styles, harpsichord and organ techniques, gamelan and celesta. Ritchie was also trying out the use of the mathematical concept of the magic square also used by composers Peter Maxwell Davies and Gillian Whitehead. The preludes were written when Ritchie took some time off from his freelance work to explore different approaches to composition.[13]

Ritchie's oratorio Gallipoli to the Somme which commemorated the one hundred year anniversary of the Battle of the Somme was based on the book of the same name by Alexander Aitken, who was a soldier in the Otago battalion and later professor of mathematics at Edinburgh University.[14] The oratorio had its premiere in Dunedin in 2016.[15] Its European premiere, with Anna Leese as a soloist, was at the Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford in June 2018.[16] It was voted New Zealand's most popular piece of classical music in RNZ Concert's Settling the Score poll in 2020.[15]

In 2018, after 18 years of teaching composition, Ritchie became professor of composition in the Department of Music, Theatre and Performing Arts at the University of Otago.[17] In 2020 he became head of the School of Performing Arts, a three year position.[15]

Award and honours

Ritchie received a Trust Fund award from the Composers Association of New Zealand in 1998 in recognition of his achievements in composition.[18]

Selected works


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Thomson, John Mansfield (1990). Biographical dictionary of New Zealand composers. Wellington, N.Z.: Victoria University Press. pp. 118–119. ISBN 978-0-86473-095-4. OCLC 1083741834.
  2. ^ Kenneth Young. "Resound". Radio New Zealand.
  3. ^ Ritchie, Anthony Damian (1986). The influence of folk music in Three Works by Béla Bartόk: Sonata No. 1 for violin and piano, Sonata (1926) for piano, and 'Contrasts' for violin, clarinet and piano (PhD). University of Canterbury. doi:10.26021/3622.
  4. ^ a b c Smith, Charmian (30 June 1998). "New work for Dunedin concert". Otago Daily Times. p. 9.
  5. ^ "Professor Anthony Ritchie".
  6. ^ Smith, Charmian (19 October 1995). "Opera not too grand for Otago composers". Otago Daily Times. p. 26.
  7. ^ Manson, Bess (16 March 2004). "Thoroughly fraught about". Dominion Post. p. A12.
  8. ^ Dunbar, Anna (16 February 2000). "Settling scores". Christchurch Press. p. 34.
  9. ^ Ritchie, Anthony; Commons, Jeremy; Buchanan, Dorothy; Cross, Ian (2003). The God boy: opera in two acts. OCLC 1192430872.
  10. ^ a b Ritchie, Anthony (2004). "Creating an opera - notes on the composition of the god boy". Canzona. 25 (46): 56–59.
  11. ^ Fox, Rebecca (31 August 2017). "In the moments before sleep". Otago Daily Times Online News. Retrieved 9 July 2021.
  12. ^ Johnson, Henry (June 2008). "Composing Asia in New Zealand: gamelan and creativity" (PDF). New Zealand Journal of Asian Studies. 10 (1): 54–84.
  13. ^ Ritchie, Anthony (2003). "24 Preludes for piano: trying a new approach to composition". Canzona. 24 (45): 35–37.
  14. ^ "Gallipoli to the Somme – Pāho". University of Otago - Pāho. Archived from the original on 4 May 2017. Retrieved 24 June 2021.
  15. ^ a b c Harwood, Brenda (22 November 2020). "A year of creativity and challenges". Otago Daily Times Online News. Retrieved 5 July 2021.
  16. ^ "Anthony Ritchie speaks to Catherine Gilbert". Retrieved 25 June 2021.
  17. ^ "Inaugural Professorial Lecture - Professor Anthony Ritchie". University of Otago. May 2018. Archived from the original on 10 July 2021. Retrieved 5 July 2021.
  18. ^ "Trust fund awards". Canzona. 24 (45): 22. 2003.