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3 January 2018

Colin Brumby 1933-2018

Colin Brumby Image: Colin Brumby  

Composer Colin Brumby (b. 18 June 1933) passed away in Brisbane on the morning of 3 January 2018 at the age of 84.

Born and raised in Melbourne, Colin Brumby began to develop an interest in composition after enrolling in the Bachelor of Music Course at the Conservatorium of Music. His first work to receive a professional performance was a Romance for oboe and strings, performed by Jiri Tancibudek with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra in 1954.

After graduating from the Melbourne University Conservatorium of Music, Brumby worked as Music Master at Sunshine High School, before moving to Queensland where he was appointed junior lecturer in music of the Kelvin Grove Teachers' College. In 1962 he was awarded a scholarship by the Spanish Government to study composition under Philipp Jarnach in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. It was there that he met with a fellow Australian, guitarist John Williams, who suggested that Colin Brumby should continue on to London at the conclusion of his course in Spain. He followed the advice and was appointed Head of Music at Greenford Grammar School, and studied composition privately with Alexander Goehr. He completed a major orchestral work, Fibonacci Variations, in 1963.

In 1964, he returned to Australia to take up a lectureship in the Department of Music at the University of Queensland. Towards the end of the '60s, at the invitation of the Queensland Division of the Arts Council of Australia, he composed several operettas for children for state-wide tours, reaching the audience of more than 70,000 children annually.

In 1972, he was awarded a Doctorate in Music by the Melbourne University, prior to returning to Europe for twelve months' further study in composition with Franco Evangelisti in Rome, Italy.

Increasingly dissatisfied with the prevailing atonal style of composition, Brumby returned to composing tonal music with his work The Phoenix and the Turtle (1974) for harpsichord and string orchestra, commissioned for Musica Viva's 1974 Australian tour of the Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields under Neville Marriner. The work marked a lasting change of compositional style for Brumby.

Brumby's new style resonated with Australian performers and listeners, and, today, his music continues to be frequently broadcast and performed. His list of works, many of them commissions, includes music in just about every genre, from symphonies and concertos to dramatic music, film scores, chamber music, songs and choral works.

Colin Brumby leaves a vast musical output and a significant legacy. Along with many others in the music community, in Brisbane and around Australia, we send our condolences to Colin's wife Jenny.

[Article edited and extended with biographical details on 29 January 2018.]

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