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John Antill (1904-1986)


(Compiled April 2004)

Born on April 4, in Sydney Australia, John Antill had an early interest in music. He received his music training at St. Andrew's Cathedral Choir School but didn't make a career of music until later. As a young man, he spent five years apprenticing to the New South Wales Government Railways spending his free time composing. When he left his position there, he took up his studies with Alfred Hill at the New South Wales Conservatorium of Music.

Antill worked in many areas of music from singing and conducting for opera companies, to playing clarinet and composing. Most of his compositions are for opera and ballet orchestras and for choirs. His work also includes scores for documentary films and the first Australian ballet to be televised in that country.

In 1946, he gained international fame with his ballet "Corroboree," which was not actually used as an accompaniment for dance until Rex Reid choreographed the first production in 1950 for the National Theatre Ballet. The ballet was inspired by an Aboriginal ritual dance Antill viewed in 1913. His extensive research into Aboriginal music resulted in this important work. He is also known for "Symphony on a city," a 1959 orchestral score commissioned by the City of Newcastle in New South Wales.

For much of his career, Antill worked for the Australian Broadcasting Commission serving as Federal Music Editor for almost 20 years, until his retirement in 1968.

John Antill died on December 29, 1986.

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