Obituary: Composer Lyell Cresswell Dies at 77

By Afton Wooten

The New Zealand-born composer Lyell Cresswell passed away on March 20, 2022.

Cresswell was born on October 13, 1944. He studied music in Wellington, Toronto, Aberdeen, and Utrecht. In 2022, Victoria University of Wellington awarded Cresswell with an honorary DMus degree.

After his studies, Cresswell moved to Scotland where he composed and began teaching at Glasgow University. From 1980 to 1982, Cresswell was a Forman Fellow in Composition at Edinburgh University. He then joined the Cramb Fellowship program in Composition at Glasgow University where he resided until 1985. Along with composing and teaching, he worked as an artistic director at Edinburgh Contemporary Arts Trust’s New Zealand and the New Music festivals in Edinburgh.

His compositions have been performed worldwide and featured in the BBC Proms, St. Magnus Festival, and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. Cresswell wrote multiple instrumental concertos including, “Concerto for Orchestra and String Quartet” commissioned by the City of Aberdeen, “The Voice Inside” (concerto for violin, soprano, and orchestra) commissioned by the BBC, and “The Clock Stops,” a song-cycle with texts by Fiona Farrell. He wrote one full-length opera “The Money Man,” as well as three chamber operas, “Good Angel, Bad Angel,” “The Perfect Woman,” and “Wedlock.”

Cresswell was a recipient of many prestigious awards including the Scottish Arts Council Creative Scotland Award, the Ian Whyte Award for his orchestral work “Slam,”  and he received the APRA Silver Scroll for his contribution to New Zealand music.