"͞Our civilization is defined by the arts. If we do not support them and take note of the deepest questions they ask, our humanity will be put at risk."

Lyell Cresswell is a pre-eminent New Zealand composer of contemporary music. He was born in Wellington, New Zealand, on 13 October 1944. He studied in Wellington, Toronto, Aberdeen and Utrecht. After some teaching at Glasgow University he joined Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff as Music Organiser (1978-80).

He returned to Scotland as Forman Fellow in Composition at Edinburgh University until 1982 and spent the next three years as Cramb Fellow in Composition at Glasgow University.

In 1978 he won the Ian Whyte Award for the Orchestral work Salm, and in 1979 received the APRA Silver Scroll for his contribution to New Zealand music. His works have been recommended by the UNESCO International Rostrum of Composers in 1979, 1981 and 1988. Since 1985 he has been a full-time composer based in Edinburgh.

He was artistic director of the Edinburgh Contemporary Arts Trust’s New Zealand, New Music festivals in Edinburgh (1998 and 2001). In 2001 he received a prestigious Scottish Arts Council ‘Creative Scotland Award’.

In 2002 he was awarded an honorary D.Mus degree by Victoria University of Wellington, and the inaugural Elgar Bursary. He was 2006/07 New Zealand School of Music/Creative New Zealand Composer in Residence in Wellington.

Lyell Cresswell’s music is widely performed. He has been a featured composer at many festivals around the world and in New Zealand. These include the Lyell Cresswell is Fifty Festival at the Tramway, Glasgow 1994 and Lyell Cresswell at 60 in Edinburgh in 2004.

In 1989 his Speak for us, great sea was performed at the BBC Proms, London, and Dragspil, concerto for accordion, was commissioned for the Proms in 1995.

His works include:


A Cello Concerto (1984), commissioned by Musica Nova,
A Modern Ecstasy (1985), commissioned anonymously 
Ylur (1991), commissioned for the St. Magnus Festival
Concerto for Orchestra and String Quartet (1996), commissioned by the City of Aberdeen
Kaea, trombone concerto (1997) 
Of Smoke and Bickering Flame (2001/2) commissioned by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra,
The Voice Inside, Concerto for Violin, Soprano and Orchestra (2001), commissioned by the BBC
Alas! How Swift, commissioned by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra 
Canterbury Rhymes, commissioned by the Christchurch Symphony
The Perfect Woman, commissioned by Scottish Opera.

A CD of recent orchestral music played by the NZSO has been released by NAXOS.

1944
Friday 13th October, born at Bethany Hospital, Wellington.
1965-75
Studying in Wellington, Toronto, Aberdeen and Utrecht. Interspersed with work as a postman and a hospital theatre porter, Married Catherine (1972)
1978
Ian Whyte Award for orchestral work 'Salm'. This marked the beginning of his career as a composer.
1979
Also, 1981 and 1988: works recommended by the UNESCO International Rostrum of Composers.
1984
Featured composer at Musica Nova festival Glasgow, and Warsaw Autumn Festival performances.
1994
'Lyell Cresswell is Fifty' festival, Glasgow.
1995
Accordion Concerto commissioned for the Proms in London.
1999, 2001
Artistic Director for the 'New Zealand New Music' festivals in Edinburgh.
2002
Honorary D.Mus Victoria University and awarded the inaugural Elgar Bursary
2006-2007
Creative New Zealand/New Zealand School of Music Composer in Residence at Victoria University.
2011
Sounz Contemporary Award for Piano Concerto
2016
Arts Laureate