Gillian Bibby 70th Birthday

In July 2015, friends and family of the Wellington composer, teacher and musicologist Gillian Bibby gathered at the Adam Concert Room to celebrate her 70th birthday. Below are videos of performances of the concert, as well as interviews with this most storied yet, in many ways, neglected composer.

Here is an extensive interview with Gillian, in which she speaks about her life as a composer and teacher, covering her childhood, studies in Germany and long association with Stockhausen, her return to New Zealand, time as Mozart Fellow in Dunedin and establishment of a piano studio in Wellington.


Musik für drei Hörer (1971)

Musik für drei Hörer (Music for Three Listeners – 1971) was written at the request of Gillian Bibby’s husband, the baritone Roger Wilson using Middle High German texts with their vowels removed.

The composer, at the clavichord, is joined by Roger Wilson and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra’s Thomas Guldborg (percussion).


The Beasts (1981)

Gillian Bibby’s The Beasts takes its texts from the “Oxford Book of Medieval English Verse”, its five movements titled:

I. The Sparrow-Hawk’s ComplaintII. The Fals FoxIII. The Cat, the Wren and the FlyIV. FishV. Gentil Cok

The composer and her husband, the baritone Roger Wilson, perform The Beasts in this Resound film.


Aie! A Conversation Piece, Part 1 (1975)

AIE!: A Conversation Piece was realised by Gillian Bibby in the electronic music studios in Cologne in 1975. The source materials are the voices of Gilllian’s friends from the Stockhausen class of the time. Gillian exploited the subtle differences in pronunciation of same words caused by the language backgrounds of individuals.

The images used in this film are a montage of the extensive notes retained by the composer from during the work’s realisation.


Jack jigs with the ghost of Gershwin (2011)

Jack jigs with the ghost of Gershwin is a piano miniature by Gillian Bibby, performed here by Gillian’s former student Ludwig Treviranus.


Music for Celebrations (1970)

Gillian Bibby’s Music for Celebrations is a series of works inspired by important family milestones. The three works are:

– The Land of Your Choice (for Lauris) – with soprano Barbara Graham
– Song of Songs (for Helen and Aaron) – with baritone Charles Wilson
– Flight of Bells (for Helen and Aaron) – a piano solo performed by the composer


Anacrocosmos (1972)

The highly gestural and theatrical sound world of Gillian Bibby’s Anacrocosmos is performed here by Rebecca Steel (alto flute), Reuben Chin (alto saxophone) and Debbie Rawson (bass clarinet). The work also exists in versions for flute, clarinet and bass trombone, as well as alto flute, bass clarinet and trumpet.


String Quartet (1970)

String Quartet was composed by Gillian Bibby while living in Lüneburg in 1971 as an entry for the Philip Neill Prize, Gillian having won the Neill the year previously with the children’s theatre work ‘Sanctuary of Spirits.’ Unsuccessful in the Neill, the work was then forgotten until unearthed by the composer while assembling the programme for her 70th birthday concert last year.

Its first movement is performed here by Alan Molina (violin), Malavika Gopal (violin), Victoria Jaenecke (viola) and Margaret Guldborg (cello).


The Bad Bird Book

Gillian Bibby’s The Bad Bird Book is a series of bird-inspired piano miniatures, performed here by the composer. The movements are:

I. Penguins crying at night under the house
II. Dawn Chorus
III. Tui in the flax bush
IV. Grey Warbler in the shadows
V. Diablo dances with a demented cuckoo
VI. Night cries in the mountains


You Can’t Kiss The Tummy of a Caged Lion (1978)

You Can’t Kiss the Tummy of a Caged Lion was commissioned by Radio New Zealand in 1978 for the first International Music Day. Gillian Bibby scored the work for three trumpets, two pianos, two percussionists, three sopranos and narrator, with texts taken from selections of her father’s poetry, Harry F. Olsen’s “Music Physics and Engineering” (1967), letters received from Radio New Zealand, the letters of William Blake, and others.

It is performed here by Barbara Graham and Lesley Graham (sopranos), Linden Loader (mezzo-soprano), Andrew WeirHelen Quaggin-Molloy and Gordon Lehaney (trumpets), Thomas Guldborg and Hannah Neman (percussion), Ludwig Treviranus and Bruce Greenfield (pianos), and Roger Wilson (narrator).



The concert audio used in these films was provided by our Resound partner RNZ Concert. Resound is funded by NZ On Air .