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SUTCLIFFE, James Helme (1929-2000)

SUTCLIFFE, James Helme (1929-2000)

James Sutcliffe as 'Kate' in the Glee Club Production of Yeoman of the Guard, 1942. <br /> (Others - David Drury as 'Fairfax'; Don Macnillan as 'Dame Carruthers' and John Salmon as 'Sgt Meryll'.)

James Sutcliffe as 'Kate' (left) in the Glee Club Production of Yeoman of the Guard, 1942.
(Others - David Drury as 'Fairfax'; Don Macmillan as 'Dame Carruthers' and John Salmon as 'Sgt Meryll'.)

‘Jim’ Sutcliffe, an internationally acknowledged composer of music lived most of his life overseas and produced over 200 compositions for voice, choir, instrument and orchestra.

His early years were spent in Suzhou Province in China where his father, Geoff, worked in the oil industry. His mother Martha, the daughter of a missionary had lived in China for many years. He attended Shanghai Public School before being enrolled at the Geelong College on 16 September 1941 after fleeing the Japanese occupation with his mother and brother. He studied at the College until December 1947 and for his final two years he was a boarder. 'Jim' studied piano while at College and participated in the cadets and the choir. He took several leading roles in the then popular Gilbert and Sullivan operettas produced by the legendary George Logie-Smith, roles which helped develop a life-long fascination with opera.

After attending the University of Melbourne conservatorium in 1948 he moved to Charlotte, North Carolina where he pursued his love of music at the Juilliard and Eastman Schools of Music. From 1957 to 1961 he lived in Pittsburgh, lecturing in music at the University of Pennsylvania before moving to Berlin where he was to reside for almost forty years.

In Berlin, he worked as a journalist writing for the New York Times, the International Herald Tribune and various music and operatic magazines. It was only after 1985 that he returned to composing, completing a vast and varied output performed in many centres across the world including Chicago, London and St Patrick’s Cathedral, Melbourne. A highlight of these was in 1993 during the 26th Carol Festival at St Patrick’s Cathedral Melbourne at which the carol, 'The Virgin’s Lullaby' was premiered, written especially for the Cathedral Choir who also performed another of Sutcliffe’s works 'Sleep, Sleep, Little Boy'.

Sources: Ad Astra July 1996 p 18; David Collins-Obituary Melbourne Age January 22 2001 p 7.
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