The endless search for the next note: Ross Harris, Lilburn Lecture 2021

27 October 2021: The endless search for the next note: Ross Harris, Lilburn Lecture 2021

The much-anticipated Lilburn Lecture from esteemed New Zealand composer and musician Ross Harris, QSM, has been postponed due to COVID-19 Alert Level 2 restrictions.

The annual Lilburn Lecture had been scheduled for 2 November at the National Library of New Zealand in Wellington.

While a new date is yet to be confirmed, it is expected to be in early 2022. Due to its popularity each year, bookings remain open at

Ross Harris will traverse his life and musical career, from lecturing with Douglas Lilburn to leading a klezmer band.

In his lecture entitled ‘The endless search for the next note: An outline of a composing life from an unlikely beginning to an unlikely present’, Harris will consider his unlikely pathway to a life in music, from brass band to klezmer band and many things in between.

“I came from a family with little interest in music or culture,” says Harris, “from salt of the earth Kiwis.”

His lecture will be a self-portrait of a composer finding a way.

Harris is one of New Zealand’s leading contemporary composers, winning many national and international awards for his work. Also a performer, he has played French horn with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, was a founding member of the group Free Radicals, and is a member of the Wellington klezmer group The Kugels. Awarded the QSM in 1985 for his opera Waituhi (libretto by Witi Ihimaera), his compositions now number more than 200. Many of his recent works are collaborations with New Zealand poet Vincent O’Sullivan. In 2014 he was awarded an Arts Foundation Laureate.

Man playing an accordion.
Ross Harris. Photo Francesca Brice.

“We are delighted to host Ross Harris for the 2021 Lilburn Lecture,” says Dr Michael Brown, Curator of Music at the Alexander Turnbull Library.

“The Lecture theme of how musical opportunities and paths present themselves resonates with the passage of life in our uncertain times. It is also wonderful to have a former colleague of Douglas Lilburn be included in the Lecture series.”

The Lilburn Lecture is an annual collaboration that started in 2013 between the Lilburn Trust, established by composer Douglas Lilburn, and the Alexander Turnbull Library. The lectures provide a platform for speakers to present new ideas about and perspectives on New Zealand music. The lecture is normally held in conjunction with Lilburn’s birthday, 2 November. Further details to be announced.



The Lilburn Trust: The late composer Douglas Lilburn helped establish the Archive of New Zealand Music, which is part of the Library’s collections, in 1974. He donated his own collection of scores, papers and recordings, and served as an honorary curator. Lilburn also established the Lilburn Trust in 1984, which is administered by Alexander Turnbull Library. The Lilburn Trust supports many New Zealand music projects including the annual Lilburn Lecture. The Lecture has been held since 2013: previous speakers have been Karyn Hay, Gillian Whitehead, Eve de Castro-Robinson, Charles Royal, Jenny McLeod, Chris Bourke, William Dart, and Philip Norman.

Lilburn Trust

Archive of New Zealand Music

Event details

Lilburn Lecture 2021 Ross Harris – The endless search for the next note: An outline of a composing life from an unlikely beginning to an unlikely present
When: Event postponed, new date to be announced

Where: Taiwhanga Kauhau – National Library Auditorium (lower ground floor), Aitken Street entrance, National Library of New Zealand, Wellington

RSVP: This is a free event but space is limited, please book by email:

Note to editors: Alexander Turnbull Library is part of the National Library of New Zealand. New Zealand's national documentary heritage collections, including both published and unpublished items, are held in the Alexander Turnbull Library.

An image of Ross Harris is attached. Please credit Francesca Brice as photographer.

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