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Red Contributor

Dorothy Buchanan


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Born: 1945


Dorothy Quita Buchanan (born 1945) grew up one of six sisters in a musical family in Christchurch. Following an education in catholic schools she graduated MusB (Hons) in composition from Canterbury University in 1967. For the next decade she worked as a freelance composer, pianist, violinist (Christchurch Symphony Orchestra) and teacher.

In 1976 she was New Zealand's first composer-in-schools and in 1979 became both president of the Composers' Association of New Zealand and the first woman to join the Musicians' Union. In the same year she founded the Christchurch Music Workshops. In 1980 she co-founded the music publishing co-operative Nota Bene which has published works by several New Zealand composers and also has a hire library of New Zealand music suitable for schools and community use. Dorothy has been a guest lecturer, musical director, adjudicator, advisor to teacher support services and an assessor on QEII Arts council (later Creative New Zealand) panels. She was for seven years on the artistic directorate of the Smokefree Women's Composing Festival.

Organisations as diverse as school choirs, string quartets, dance and theatre companies and symphony orchestras have commissioned songs, operas, incidental music and film and television scores. Her work for the New Zealand Film Archive from 1984 carried on the family tradition begun by her maternal grandmother Molly Clarke, who played piano for silent movies on the West Coast in the early 1920s. Dorothy's arrangement of the original score for the classic silent film La Passion de Jeanne D'Arc is considered the finest rendering ever. Many of her works are settings for voice of text by New Zealand poets including Lauris Edmond, Fleur Adcock and Janet Frame. She has collaborated with New Zealand writers to produce major operas like the Clio Legacy (Witi Ihimaera) and Woman at the Store and The Mansfield Stories, both from the short stories of Katherine Mansfield. Fragments and Letters, based on her friendship with singer Malcolm McNeill, won the Philip Neill Memorial Prize from the University of Otago in 1995.

Awards include a CANZ Outstanding Achievement Award, the Vernon Griffiths Memorial Award for Outstanding Musical Leadership and a Suffrage Medal. In 2001 she was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM) for a lifetime's involvement in music.

Though she often finds the beginnings of an idea arriving in the most mundane places, like the supermarket, Dorothy's inspiration continues to spring from the land, light and sounds of Aotearoa: “bird song, flax in summer, a line of hills.”

Composed (175)

A Christmas Carol

for voice and piano, 2m

A Festive Song - Burnside High School

for voice, processional choir, answering choir, and school orchestra, 5m

A Garland of Haiku

for unaccompanied SSA choir, 10m

A Going Concern

Music written for a TVNZ production, 1m

A Hymn To The Virgin

for soprano and piano, 3m

A Matter of Timing

for SATB choir with string quartet, female narrator and mezzo-soprano, 8m

A Song of Music

for SATB choir, 4m

A Suite of Melodies: Themes for Friends

for cello and organ (or piano), 18m

An Ocean Between Us

for mezzo-soprano and piano quartet, 25m


for piano, 3m

As Joseph Was A-Walking

carol for voices and piano, 4m

Autograph - David

For solo cello, 1m

Autograph - Jane Purdue

for solo flute, 1m

Autograph - Melissa Leighton

for solo tenor, 2m

Autograph - Richard Cooper

for solo flute, 1m

Autograph - Richard Foreman

for solo clarinet, 2m

Autograph - Timothy Purdue

For soprano saxophone, 1m

Birdsong Soliloquy

for solo flute, 2m

Bush Cinderella

for clarinet, cello and piano, 1h 10m

Carnival of New Zealand Creatures

for narrator, singer, flute, clarinet, cello, guitar, percussion, 20m

Cashmere High School Song

for SSATB choir with keyboard accompaniment, 3m

Cello Duet

for two cellos, 3m

Champagne And Roses

for solo piano, 2m

Christmas Music

for wind quintet and string quintet, piano and guitar, 15m

Clarinets Apart

ensemble pieces for clarinets


for chamber orchestra, 9m


for cornet/trumpet and school orchestra


for full orchestra, 9m

Dayton Ohio 1903

arranged for SATB and piano, 3m

Duo Concertante

for solo violin and solo cello with chamber orchestra, 18m

Echoes and Reflections

for mixed chamber quartet, 18m

Elsie Rose

for piano, 2m

Family Affair

Incidental music written for a TVNZ production, 45m

Fanfare 1982

for 3 trumpets, trombone, timpani and organ, 2m

Film Music

adaptation for clarinet, cello, and piano of music for silent film, 1h 40m

Five Pieces

for solo bassoon, 12m

Five Songs from No Ordinary Sun

for baritone, flute and piano, 15m

Five Songs from No Ordinary Sun

for mezzo-soprano, flute and piano, 15m

Five Songs of Love and the Land

for soprano (or mezzo), clarinet and SATB choir, 19m

Five Vignettes of Women

for flute and SSA choir, 18m

Five Witchy Poo Songs

for voice(s) and piano, 6m

Flute Song for the Birds

for solo flute, 5m

Flute Song for the Birds: The Birds Began to Sing

a dialogue for solo flute and voices, 10m

Four Duos

for violin and 'cello, 13m

Four English Folk Song Settings

for TTBB choir and piano, 8m

Four John Fletcher Songs

for SSA choir with harpsichord or piano, 13m

Four Songs for the Pudkin Family Story

for voices and piano, 6m

Fragments and Letters

a song cycle for voice, clarinet and cello, 18m

Frances of Fielding

piano music for silent film, 10m

From the Spring

for violin and piano, 2m

Fugue for the Forties

for flute and horn, 4m

Go Lovely Rose

for soprano or mezzo soprano and piano, 3m


opera for 8 singers and 5 players, 43m

Greeting Song

for voice(s) and orchestra, 2m


Music for a film by Asta Nielsen, 1h 28m

He Gives Us All His Love

for 8-part choir with optional piano, 2m


for unaccompanied SATB choir, 22m

Hine e Hine

for voice and piano, 3m

Hine e Hine

arranged for SATB choir with piano accompaniment, 2m

Hine e hine

for SATB choir (with soloist), piano, and school orchestra, 3m

Hine e Hine

arranged for SSA choir and piano

Hinemoa and Tutanekai

suite for piano, 10m

Hinemoa and Tutanekai - a suite for Youth Orchestra

suite for youth orchestra with girls' choir, 10m

I Also Have My Song to Sing

for rock group or children's choir, 3m

I Also Have My Song to Sing

arranged for SSA, flute and piano

I Also Have My Song to Sing

arrangement for vocal duo and ensemble, 3m

In Position

for solo cello, 8m

It Began with a Pony

a salon opera in one act, 41m


for piano, 3m 30s

Just Looking

music for dance, for trio, 24m

Kate de Goldi

for piano, 3m

La Passion du Jeanne D'Arc

arranged from Alix et Pouget's score for soprano, mezzo, SSA choir and organ, 1h 27m

Late Song

for flute (doubling piccolo/narration), clarinet, piano and narrator, 8m

Layers of Time

for solo cello, SSA choir and small orchestra with piano

Lullay, My Liking

for soprano solo, semi-chorus and full chorus


for mezzo, choir, flute and brass ensemble, 37m

Margaret Mahy Storybook Theatre

26 songs for TVNZ series

Marian College School Song

for SSA choir or solo voices with piano, 3m

Mary Magdalene and the Birds

a song cycle for mezzo and clarinet, 15m

Mary Rose

for piano, 3m

Mass in English

for unaccompanied SSA choir, 10m

Mass of St Peter of the Way

for unison choir with keyboard, 10m

Meditation (for DGC)

for clarinet and piano, 4m

Millennium Peace Song

for soloist, SSA and SATB choirs and piano, 5m

Millennium Peace Song

for voice and piano (or guitar accompaniment), 5m

Miss Brill

an opera in one act, 25m

Moonshine Valley

for female and mixed choirs with either orchestral or piano accompaniment

More Witchy Poo Songs

for voice(s) and piano, 5m


for piano, 3m

Motet to the Virgin

for unaccompanied SSA choir, 3m

Music for Treasures: Nga Taonga

music for chamber quintet to accompany a silent film, 50m

Nine Colour Sketches For Four

for flute, soprano saxophone, violin and piano, 21m

Nostalgic: Step By Step

for E flat clarinet and piano, 2m

Oedipus Rex

incidental music for a play by Sophocles for TTBB choir, SATB choir and quartet, 25m

Of Women's Voices

for women's choir and orchestra

Oracles and Miracles

music for radio dramatisation of story by Stevan Eldred Griggs, 3m

Our Father (The Lord's Prayer)

for SATB choir and piano, 3m

Our Song

for voices and orchestra, 4m

Owed to R

for saxophone quartet

Owed to R

version for string quartet, 11m

Pacific Bolero

for violin, cello and piano


a fanfare for chamber orchestra, 4m

Peace Song

for voice(s) and piano, 3m

Peace Song

arranged for soprano and cello, 3m

Piano Song For Jonathan

for piano, 2m

Prayer (Our Father)

arranged for choir and orchestra, 3m

Prayer (Our Father)

for unison voices and piano (with violin obbligato), 3m

Prayer from Arawata Bill

for two solo voices, SSA choir and piano

Precious Child (a christmas carol)

for SSA choir and piano, 2m

Queen of Rivers

incidental music for film for clarinet doubling soprano saxophone, 7m

Reo Karanga

for mezzo-soprano, 2m

Reo Karanga - The Calling Voice

fanfare for five voices, 2m

Richmond's Song

for violin and piano, 3m


a road safety musical, 1h

Romantic and Sea Girt

Music for a film, 17m


for piano, 1m

Scottish Folk Song Settings

for piper and string orchestra, 10m


for double SATB choir, 4m

Sinfonietta (in five movements)

for ocarina and orchestra, 25m

Six Choruses from Oedipus Rex

For Mezzo-Soprano and Organ, 23m

Slow Piece for Piano

a childrens' piece, 2m

Sneers and Delusions

six songs for voice(s), piano, lute and hand-drum, 15m


for solo clarinet, 2m

Soliloquy for Two

for clarinet and piano

Soliloquy for Two (Cello Version)

for cello and piano


for violin and piano, 12m

Song for David

for voice, piano and clarinet, 3m

Song for James (You're My Home)

for voice and keyboard

Song for the Year of the Child

for SAB choir and orchestra, 3m

Song from Ecclesiastes

for double SATB choir, narrator, and soloists, 6m

Song Without Words

for piano duet, 3m

Song Without Words

arranged for piano trio, 2m

Songs of Birth and Daughters

for a cappella SSA choir, 12m

Songs of Wind and Moon

for soprano or tenor and string orchestra, 10m

Sophie's Song

for voice and piano, 1m


For solo soprano or treble, 2m

Stella Matutina

for SSA choir, 5m

String Quartet

arranged for string orchestra, 7m

The Adventures Of Algy

incidental music for a silent film, 1h 7m

The Ancient of Days

for mezzo soprano and piano, 2m

The Birds began to sing

for unaccompanied SATB and SSA choirs, 5m

The Blossom of the Branches

for SAB choir and piano

The Blossom of the Branches

For Mezzo-Soprano and Piano, 12m

The Call of the River

for mezzo soprano, tenor and baritone soloists, SATB choir, narrators and ensemble, 30m

The Canticle of St Francis

for women's choir and piano, 6m

The Clio Legacy

for woman narrator, mezzo, SSA choir and Maori womens' choruses and orchestra, 55m

The Daughters of the Late Colonel

a short opera in one act, 33m

The Ghosts of Denniston

for chamber orchestra, 4m

The Lord's My Shepherd (In memory of Jane Keating)

for 2 part women's choir with optional descant and piano, 3m

The Lord's My Shepherd (In memory of Jane Keating)

for 2 part women's choir with chamber orchestra

The Lost Tune

for chamber ensemble, 5m

The Man Who Sold Goldfinches

for (mezzo) soprano and cello

The Mercy Motto

for SSA choir, 1m

The Mother Of Christ

for soprano and piano, 3m

The Poems of Lauris Edmond

for spoken word with clarinet, guitar and cello

The Tempest

incidental music for play by Shakespeare, 1h

The Woman at the Store

an opera in one short act for four soloists with piano accompaniment, 25m

Theme and Three Variations

for 3 violins and piano, 11m

There Were Four and Twenty of Them Singing

for violin (doubling log drum), cello and piano


for violin and piano, 6m

Three Arawata Bill Songs

for SATB choir and piano, 5m

Three Jacques Prevert Settings

for flute, violin, double bass, piano and narrator, 8m

Three New Zealand Perspectives

for solo cello, 15m

Three Sketches for Wind Octet

for wind octet, 9m

Trio Sound

for violin, cello and piano, 17m

Two Folk Melodies

for small saxophone ensemble, arr. Sam Cormac

Waltz for Clare

for piano, 3m

Wedding Song

for voice and piano, 3m

Wellington College School Song

for unison voices and orchestra, 4m

Whispering into the Wind

for voice and piano, 3m