Richard James Gill AO (4 November 1941 – 28 October 2018) was an Australian conductor of choral, orchestral and operatic works, who was also involved in music training and education.
Life and career
Gill was born and raised in the Sydney suburb of Eastwood. His education in music commenced at Marist College Eastwood where he was introduced to the richness and beauty of the Catholic liturgy. Prior to becoming a professional conductor, he was a music teacher at Marsden High School, West Ryde, in Sydney. Among his students there was Kim Williams who later became a lifelong friend.
In 1969, he was the founding conductor of the Strathfield Symphony Orchestra in Sydney. He continued as conductor in 1973–74 and returned in 1979 to conduct the orchestra's 10th anniversary concert. In 1971 he studied at the Orff Institute of the Mozarteum in Salzburg. He was later invited to teach at the summer schools in Salzburg; on one occasion he was one of the pianists in the version of Carmina Burana for two pianos and percussion, conducted by Carl Orff himself. Gill was on staff at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music from 1975 to 1982. He was conductor with the Sydney Youth Orchestra Association from 1977 to 1982, conducting the orchestra's tour of Singapore and Hong Kong in 1981. In 1982, he was invited as a principal presenter to the annual conference of the American Orff Schulwerk Association (AOSA); this led to further workshops and classes throughout the United States. Other posts include dean of the Western Australian Conservatorium of Music (1985–1990) and Director of Chorus at the Opera Australia (1990–1996).
In August 2005, Gill was appointed music director of the new Melbourne-based Victorian Opera.
In 2013, along with Rachael Beesley and Nicole van Bruggen, he established the Australian Romantic & Classical Orchestra (formerly "orchestra seventeen88"). Gill was the artistic director and principal conductor of the orchestra.
In 2014, he was appointed to succeed Paul Stanhope as musical director of the Sydney Chamber Choir.
In February 2017, Gill conducted the inaugural gathering of the Sydney Flash Mob Choir at the City Recital Hall in Angel Place, Sydney, bringing together singers and would-be singers from all walks of life for a monthly 40-minute singalong.
Gill died on 28 October 2018, aged 76, from colorectal and peritoneal cancer.
Gill's operatic repertoire included performances with Opera Queensland, Opera Australia, the Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne Festivals, and Windmill Performing Arts. He conducted the world premieres of Alan John's The Eighth Wonder (1995) and Moya Henderson's Lindy (2002) with Opera Australia, and Jonathan Mills' The Ghost Wife at the Melbourne International Arts Festival in 1999 (and again at London's Barbican Centre in 2002), and The Eternity Man at the Sydney Festival in 2004. For the Victorian Opera he conducted the new Australian works The Love of the Nightingale by Richard Mills (2007) and Alan John's Through the Looking Glass (2008). His work in the concert hall included concerts with all the major Australian orchestras.
In his Discovery and Ears Wide Open series of concerts, he took selected works from the traditional and the contemporary classical music repertoire and analysed the works in a humorous and entertaining manner, trying to find what made the works "tick" and to, as he says, listen to the music "with new ears".
He composed the music for Brisbane Girls Grammar School school song, "Nil sine labore".
Awards included an Order of Australia Medal in 1994, a Centenary Medal in 2001, the Bernard Heinze Award for services to music in Australia, and an honorary doctorate from the Edith Cowan University of Western Australia for his service to Australian music and musicians. In 2001 he received the Australian Music Centre's award for 'Most Distinguished Contribution to the Presentation of Australian Composition by an Individual'. In December 2005, he was awarded the Don Banks Music Award 2006 by the Australia Council for the Arts. In 2016 he was promoted within the Order of Australia to Officer level.
Gill was awarded a MOST Achievement Award in July 2018 "in recognition of his exceptional contribution to the Arts in Australia as both a conductor and as a music educator". Two weeks later he was awarded the Arts Leadership Award at the 2018 Creative Partnerships Awards, held at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.
In 2006 he appeared in the four-part ABC documentary/reality series Operatunity Oz, which sought Australian singers with opera potential, and in the 2007 follow-up episode Operatunity Oz – Twelve Months On.
He was an occasional guest on ABC-TV's popular-music panel show Spicks and Specks.
In January 2009, Richard Gill worked with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra's National Youth Orchestra (NYO) in their National Music Camp in Napier, New Zealand, on the occasion of NYO's 50th anniversary celebrations.