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Colin Brumby (1933-2018) : Represented Artist

Random Audio Sample: Twilight pastoral : for solo piano by Colin Brumby, from the CD Grass Tree Hill

Photo of Colin Brumby

Colin Brumby was born in Melbourne, Australia, in 1933 and educated at the Glen Iris State School, Spring Road Central School, and Melbourne Boys' High School.

While enrolled in the Bachelor of Music Course at the Conservatorium of Music, he began to develop an interest in composition

A suggestion from the conductor Verdon Williams, that he should write something for solo instrument and orchestra, resulted in his first work to receive a professional performance: Romance for Oboe and Strings was performed on radio by the Jiri Tancibudek with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra in 1954.

On graduating from the Melbourne University Conservatorium of Music, Colin Brumby was appointed Music Master at Sunshine High School. After teaching for three years, however, in 1959 he decided to head north to Queensland where he was promptly appointed a Junior Lecturer in Music on the staff of the (then) Kelvin Grove Teachers' College

In 1962 he left to take up a scholarship awarded by the Spanish Government to study advanced musical composition under Philipp Jarnach at an international music course in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. It was there that he met with fellow-Australian, guitarist John Williams, who suggested that Colin should continue on to London at the conclusion of the course in Spain.

Taking up John Williams's advice, he was appointed Head of Music at Greenford Grammar School, and studied composition privately with Alexander Goehr, resulting in his major orchestral work, Fibonacci Variations.

He returned to Australia in 1964 to take up a lectureship in the Department of Music at the University of Queensland. In the late '60s, at the invitation of the Queensland Division of the Arts Council of Australia, he composed several twenty-minute operettas for children, which were toured around the state where they were enjoyed by 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 advanced music composition with Franco Evangelisti in Rome, Italy.

Because, however, of his increasing dissatisfaction with the prevailing atonal style of composition, he returned composing tonal music in The Phoenix and the Turtle, a work written in response to a commission from Musica Viva for the 1974 Australian tour of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields under Neville Marriner.

This work marked a lasting change of compositional style for Brumby, who said at the time, 'I became convinced that the atonal style of composition attempted to elevate gibberish to an art-form, and that I wanted no further part in it.'

The immediate appeal that his extremely large musical output makes to performer and listener alike means that he is one of Australia's most frequently broadcast and performed composers.

His list of works, many of them commissions, includes symphonies, concertos, operas, ballets, film scores, musicals, chamber music, songs and choral works…in fact, music in almost every genre.

Colin Brumby passed away in Brisbane on 3 January 2018.

Teacher/Influence on

Stephen Cronin (1978 - 1981)

Awards & Prizes

Year Award Placing Awarded for
1990 Don Banks Music Award Recipient
1969 Albert H Maggs Composition Award First Prize

Selected Commissions

  Work Commission Details
Evening service : SATB choir with organ Commissioned by The Cathedral Singers for the choir's first English tour in July 2008
Digital sheet music sample I was glad : SATB (2009) Commissioned by Sandy Tittle for Choir of St Martin's Episcopal Church, Chagrin Falls, Ohio, USA
Digital sheet music sample Ave verum corpus : for 3-part male choir with optional accompaniment (2009) Commissioned by Jane Kramer, music director for the Holy Family Catholic Church, Davidson, Maryland USA
Cantata Capricornia : traditional folk-song for SSA accompanied choir (2009) Commissioned by and dedicated to The Bluebird Singers
Digital sheet music sample The Romsey mass : for unison voices and organ (2008) Commissioned by Peter and Daphne Lindsell, for the Girls' Choir & congregation of Romsey Abbey, UK.
Digital sheet music sample Missa brevis : SATB choir with piano (2007) Commissioned by Geelong Grammar School

Analysis & Media

Book: Developing variations in selected works by Colin Brumby : an analytical study / by Wendy M. Penny.

Book: A discussion of two major choral works by Colin Brumby based on texts by Thomas Shapcott / by Philippa Roylance.

Book: Formative factors in Colin Brumby's musical style, with special reference to the Stabat Mater Speciosa / by Sook Leng Tee.

- Article: Dawn of a new world symphony