Gillian Whitehead
Gillian Whitehead  


Gillian Whitehead is a prolific composer whose work spans some 40 years, and includes operas, orchestral, choral, chamber and solo works. Fourteen years in Britain, where she studied with Peter Maxwell Davis, established her international reputation.

After fifteen years teaching at the Sydney Conservatorium, Gillian returned to New Zealand and now lives in Dunedin, where she devotes herself entirely to composing. In 1999 her opera, Outrageous Fortune won the SOUNZ Contemporary Award and she was honoured with membership to the NZ Order of Merit. In 2000 she became one of the inaugural Artist Laureates of the NZ Arts Foundation and is now a governor of the organisation.

During 2000 and 2001 she was Composer in Residence at the Auckland Philharmonia and was once again awarded the 2001 SOUNZ Contemporary Award for her major orchestral work The Improbable Ordered Dance written during the Residency. She was the 2005/2006 CNZ/NZSM Composer-in-Residence, and the first recipient of this award to reside in the Lilburn Residence in Thorndon, Wellington.

Ipu is based on a story by Tungia Baker, for which Gillian drew together a unique ensemble that employed pre-European Maori instruments (taonga puoro) as well as piano, cello and voice. The performers are Judy Bailey (piano), Richard Nunns (taonga puoro), Georg Pederson (cello), and Tungia Baker (voice/narration). Renowned critic William Dart described the work as a "... potent mix, a finely meshed collaboration [in which] a stunning vista is revealed."

For more information, visit Gillian Whitehead at Arts Foundation 

In 2001, New Zealand filmmaker Gaylene Preston interviewed Gillian. To read the extensive and thoroughly absorbing results, click here