Douglas (Gordon) Lilburn 1915 – 2001 is considered to be New Zealand’s foremost composer. Sometimes referred to fondly as the ‘elder statesman’ or ‘grandfather’ of New Zealand composing it is interesting that Lilburn said of his young self – ‘I was not born into a musical family and had no proper musical training before a late age of 17. But rather than regret this , I’ve always remained grateful for a childhood on a central North Island sheep station, a richly varied and potent human and natural context to shape a young imagination.’
However, from that point on, his natural talent blossomed and his impressive, unfaltering, musical journey began. First he studied at Canterbury University College, then the Royal College of Music, London where he was tutored by Ralph Vaughan Williams. This was the beginning of a long friendship between the pair.
Like Vaughan Williams, Lilburn was intensely inspired by the beauty of nature, poetry and art, albeit that his works have a unique New Zealand perspective. As an industrious student under Vaughan Williams’ patronage he made rapid progress writing several acclaimed works. These include the Drysdale Overture, a musical tribute to summer days on his parent’s farm and the classic Aotearoa Overture which pays homage to the New Zealand landscape.
On his return home he moved to Christchurch and worked as a composer and teacher.