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Phillip Wilcher

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Phillip Wilcher
Phillip Wilcher photographed by Bridget Elliot.jpg
Background information
Birth namePhillip Leslie Wilcher
Born (1958-03-16) 16 March 1958 (age 62)
Camperdown, New South Wales, Australia
GenresClassical, children's
Occupation(s)Musician, composer, actor
Years active1972–present

Phillip Leslie Wilcher (born 16 March 1958) is an Australian pianist and classical music composer who was a founding member of the children's music group the Wiggles. When Wilcher published his first work, "Daybreak", at the age of 14, he was one of the youngest classical composers in Australia.

Wilcher has published over 100 piano-related works and has performed both solo and with ensembles. Rita Crews for The Studio Quarterly Magazine described his style as "free-flowing, with an underlying romantic character, one in which melodic line and lyricism are all-important elements".[1] His music has been broadcast by radio stations ABC-FM and 2MBS-FM – the latter has aired two documentaries, Wilcher and the French Connection and Wilcher's World.

Family and personal life[edit]

Phillip Leslie Wilcher[2] was born to Naomi Joy Thompson (8 April 1929 – 21 June 2005) and Leslie James Wilcher (born 16 January 1923), a World War II veteran.[3][4][5] Wilcher grew up in Camperdown.[3] As of 2004, he resided in Concord and owns no cell phone, watch, or car: "My entire life since I was a boy was writing music and that has overshadowed everything. I would be happy living in an oversized cardboard box with a piano and a blank sheet of manuscript paper".[6]


Early years[edit]

Wilcher started piano lessons at the age of eight; his first teachers were Gladys Woodward and Jean Teasel.[4][7] His interest in composing music began at an early age, before his teens.[7] At the age of 14, Wilcher published his first piano composition, "Daybreak",[2] with the Sydney-based music company, J. Albert & Son,[8] making him the then-youngest published composer in Australia.[4][9] The track was later recorded in 2006 by John Martin on his CD, Ancient Rivers.[4]

It was around that time Richard Gill awarded Wilcher a prize in the City of Sydney Eisteddfod for a work titled ‘Autumn Mists.’ Wilcher had entered it along with four other pieces, a Barcarolle, a Rhapsody, an Etude (which Gill praised as a “noble effort” that “rivaled Chopin’s Etude Opus 10 No. 4 in its ideas and difficulty”) and a smaller study he likened to the Opus 110 by Brahms, in both style and difficulty. In his autobiography 'Thinking Allowed' Wilcher recalls: "He was very kind to me, and encouraged me to continue on, suggesting – even foretelling – that mine was a name worth remembering."[10]

For seven years, after he published "Daybreak", Wilcher was a student of composer and musicologist, Franz Holford, who was an editor at J. Albert & Son; he later composed music with Holford for over twenty years.[8][9] Wilcher's piano piece, "Autumn Rain", was published when he was 17, by J. Albert & Son. He also studied with classical musicians Neta Maughan and Elpis Liossatos, and began a thirty-year association with composer Miriam Hyde. Hyde is quoted as saying of Wilcher: "I find great satisfaction in the fact that we - Australia - have one composer who can succeed in a medium of sensitivity in spite of the ugliness and violence predominating in so many countries." [11] In 1976 Wilcher became an assistant editor for J. Albert & Son's Classical/Educational Division. During the 1980s he worked for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).[7]

According to Wilcher's autobiography, it was while working at the ABC Wilcher came into contact with American Pulitzer-Prize winning composer Ned Rorem, who was to prove a major influence upon Wilcher's way of thinking, and how he considered creativity one's primary purpose for being. As Rorem had once written Wilcher: "The meaning of Life is to seek Life's meaning." Although musically they are of different worlds, Wilcher considers Rorem a mentor. The two shared a correspondence spanning over 30 years. Rorem to Wilcher: "Meanwhile, get your work done, there are too few people who know (as you and I know) what they want to do and how to do it."[10]

The Wiggles and children's music career[edit]

Early in 1991, while working in the Macquarie University early childhood music program, Wilcher met Anthony Field, former member of the Australian rock group the Cockroaches, who was studying child development. According to Wilcher, Field asked him to help them record their self-titled debut album.[6]

Wilcher claims that he "contributed the most musically to the debut album",[9] composing 75% of the music.[6] The album included another piece he had composed at 14, "Summer Dance", which appeared on the album as "Archie's Theme".[7][9] Wilcher was nicknamed Archie due to his admiration of American pianist Liberace.[12][13] He performed in two of the group's videos, "Get Ready to Wiggle" and "Dorothy the Dinosaur".[8][9][14]

In 1992, Wilcher left the Wiggles. Their spokesperson, Dianna O'Neill, claims that he submitted a letter of resignation because he wanted to continue composing classical music.[9] According to fellow founding member Greg Page, "Archie had considerable input into the arrangement of some songs on that first CD ... he is quite a musical genius ... However ... the musical direction of the Wiggles was changing".[12] Australian Record Industry Association (ARIA) awarded the band members, including Wilcher, with gold and platinum certificates for the album.[15]

In 1993, Wilcher published a lesson plan for early childhood activities, A Musical Offering.[16] The Australian composer and music educator, Dulcie Holland remarked: “Phillip Wilcher’s 'A Musical Offering' is an ingenious and imaginative approach to music. Through rhythm and rhyme, movement and sound, the very young person is gently introduced to music as an enjoyable activity. This will provide a wonderful foundation for a lifetime of musical experience and richness.” Holland would later set Wilcher's poem 'Sounds and Silence' from 'A Musical Offering' for women's choir. It was premiered by the Faye Dumont Singers and later published by EMI.[17]

In 2000, for reasons not entirely clear, the Wiggles had not only rerecorded their first album, but also renamed it "Wiggle Time" and removed all of his compositions.[9][6][7][18] In 2005, when the Wiggles had become Australia's most successful children's act,[14] he seemed to criticise the Wiggles in the press, but he has since stated that reporters had misrepresented him and that he chose to remain silent in the aftermath of their articles.[19][20]

Later career[edit]

Phillip Wilcher's has composed over 100 works for solo piano, pieces for soloist and piano as well as chamber ensembles.[21] His music was described by The Sydney Morning Herald's Steve Dow as "an eclectic mix of classical and flim-flam".[9] Wilcher's compositions are influenced by Chopin and J.S. Bach, and some of his works are notable for their use of Eastern scales, such as his Six Etudes, which uses Chinese and Japanese scales.[22][21] He has composed music for pianist Aaron McMillan, and for musician and former ABC broadcaster, news reader and journalist, Clive Robertson.[9] He has also set poetry by American librettist Jack Larson to music.[9] In 2007, he composed "1791", a work honouring Mozart on the anniversary of his death, which was performed by oboist Rachel Tolmie, and the Bourbaki String Ensemble conducted by David Angell.[7] It appeared on a compilation album, Into His Countenance (2008), which featured various artists performing Wilcher's compositions.[23][24]

His works have been included on several other CDs released by Jade Music and Wirripang. Pianist Jeanell Carrigan has recorded six CDs of his compositions, two for Publications by Wirripang.[9] Carrigan, on the transportive nature of Wilcher's music, remarked: "Whether he wishes to transport the listener to a cafe in Paris or to the top of a mountain in Java, his skilful use of harmony, rhythm and tempi creates the perfect atmosphere." [11] Rita Crews, in a review of Carrigan's album Shimmer (2004) for The Studio Quarterly Magazine, described Wilcher's style as "free-flowing, with an underlying romantic character, one in which melodic line and lyricism are all-important elements".[1] 2MBS-FM's Mike Smith found it was of "a more openly romantic nature than in his earlier" work and he was "reminded of Rachmaninov, Albeniz and even Brahms".[25]

As well as composing, Wilcher has performed both solo and with ensembles.[8][26] This has included playing three times for the Liberace Foundation in Las Vegas.[9] His music has been broadcast by radio stations, ABC-FM and 2MBS-FM – the latter has aired two documentaries on his music, Wilcher and the French Connection and Wilcher's World.[7][8] He has had an active public speaking career, and is an elected life member of Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA) and a board member of the Australian Music Teacher Magazine, for which he has written articles on Chopin, Brahms, Ravel, and music education.[4]

In 2011, on learning of the death of Benjamin Daniel Breedlove who was an American YouTuber from Texas, Wilcher wrote a piece of music for string quartet titled "Remembered On Waking". The piece was performed and recorded by the Linden Quartet on Wilcher's album Heaven-Haven, published by Wirripang.[27]

Heaven-Haven was released in 2014.[28] The music was performed by the Linden String Quartet. During production of the CD, Wilcher saw press reports about the fatal attack of 18-year-old Sydney resident Thomas Kelly;[29] Wilcher was unable to separate the sorrow he felt for Kelly and his family from the sentiment he was trying to convey through his music. He eventually dedicated the project to Kelly and announced that proceeds from the album would benefit the Thomas Kelly Youth Foundation.[28] Wilcher's 2017 album, The Voice of Love, is dedicated to Rosemary Eather, the host of the Australian children's television show, Good Morning!!! and friend to the composer and featured solo piano and piano and cello pieces. The performers were Jeanell Carrigan (piano) and Minah Choe (cello).[30] For the 2019 release of Spellbound, they were joined by Goetz Richter (violin). Pieces for various combinations of piano, violin and cello appear on the disc, with Wilcher's demanding Four Scherzi as a framing device.[31] Brennan Keats, head of Wirripang publishing, contributed some insightful thoughts about Wilcher in the liner notes: "Phillip Wilcher is a man 'spellbound' by a profound spirituality that he rationalises with a natural philosophy that transcends most who live in the superficial world that confronts us today. There is a depth in him expressed by gentleness, kindness and demonstrated by the great love he exudes. All this is tempered by discipline, precision, delicacy and firmness of touch that only the truest, yet finest of musicians can expound. Of all the discs that he has produced, this is the most aptly named, in that it summarises a composer, musician and writer of integrity, and one of those rare beings who rises above all he encounters and yet remains very much one of us."[31]

In 2017, soprano, Ayse Goknur Shanal premiered two songs written for her by Wilcher at the Sydney Opera House, “In the Nape of a Dream” and “Spirit Song”, which was specifically written at the request of Goknur Shanal for inclusion in her 'Songs for Refugees' concert. “The idea for this concert was a seed I have been watering since September 2015 when I saw the image of the Syrian toddler with the tiny jeans shorts and red t-shirt washed up on the Turkish shores. It broke me,” Goknur Shanal revealed. Together with cellist Kenichi Mizushima and pianist Harry Collins, this monumental evening, was organised by the grassroots network, Mums 4 Refugees, with the proceeds being donated to the charitable law firm, Human Rights for All, which represents refugee cases, on pro bono basis. "The concert include[d] works by, Massenet, Puccini, Giordano, as well as the world premiere of Spirit, written by Australian composer, Phillip Wilcher." (Sydney Opera House press release).[32]

More recently, Wilcher has published a number of books, including an autobiography, titled 'Thinking Allowed'.[10] He has written a full-scale piano recital for the virtuoso pianist Simon Tedeschi, and his music has attracted the attention of, and been performed by pianists overseas, notably Gerhard Eckle, Eduardo Fernandez, Lemuel Grave, Adam Jackson, and Emanuel Rimoldi.

Simon Tedeschi said of Wilcher's work: 'Phillip Wilcher's music dreamily evokes another time, another place. It has a searching quality that conjures up images of the great Romantic composers. Phillip wrote a recital for me, which I hope to present soon. Included in that are the ‘Etudes Tedeschi’ which have all the flavour and technical imagination of similar great works in the piano repertoire. I am proud to watch the evolution of this musician and composer who I count as a great personal friend.

Other musicians who have performed and recorded Wilcher’s works include John Martin (piano), Rachel Tolmie (oboist), Marina Marsden (violinst), Justine Marsden (violist), Elizabeth Neville (cellist), Emily Long (violinist), Melissa Doecke (flautist), Martin Cooke (singer), Neil Fissenden (flautist), David Wickham (pianist), Minah Choe (cellist).[11]

Faith and religious beliefs[edit]

According to Wilcher's autobiography 'Thinking Allowed', on 10 March 1991, after being encouraged by Anthony Field to pursue the Catholic faith, Wilcher was baptised at the Mount St. Francis Friary, Kellyville, New South Wales. Fr Max Balabanski was the priest presiding. Anthony Field was sworn in as Wilcher's godfather, and Field's mother Marie was sworn in as his godmother. Also in attendance were Paul and John Field, after which a luncheon was held in the Field's family home. Wilcher is of no fixed denomination today, but acknowledges the importance of the teachings of Christ in his life.[10]

Where Wilcher himself draws direct alignment between the writing of his Music and creativity at the source, it was the late Raymond Smullyan who heard a correlation between Wilcher's music and the religious or philosophical traditions of the East. Says Wilcher: I first came into contact with Raymond via YouTube after he had commented favourably on my music. Later, he invited me to submit a chapter about myself for the book "In Their Own Words" ( The Piano Society 2009 Lulu Press) which he was editing with Peter Bispham : "I wish to compliment Taoism and Zen Buddhism by saying that I see a certain similarity between them and your music." [33]


  • Wilcher, Phillip (1993). "A musical offering" : a lesson plan comprising 6 early childhood musical activities. Concord, New South Wales, Australia: P. Wilcher. ISBN 978-0-646-13680-6. Retrieved 19 May 2013.
  • Wilcher, Phillip (2000). 27. Concord, NSW: P. Wilcher. Retrieved 19 May 2013.
  • Wilcher, Phillip (2016). Thinking Allowed: A life in conversation with itself. Wollongong, NSW: Wirripang. Retrieved 8 July 2018.
  • Wilcher, Phillip (2016). Divinity: A dialogue between the self and music at the source. Wollongong, NSW: Wirripang. Retrieved 8 July 2018.


Studio albums

  • Arabesque (2000)[34]
  • Out of the Blowing Sands (2001)[35]
  • Etchings (2002)[36]
  • Shimmer (2004)[1][25]
  • Bundanon (2009)[37]
  • Wind Chimes (2012)[38]
  • Heaven Haven (2014)[28]
  • The Voice of Love (2017)[30]
  • Spellbound (2019)[31]

Compilation albums

  • Into His Countenance (2008)[24]
  • Goldleafing a Dream (2011) [39]




  1. ^ a b c Crews, Rita (2004). "Phillip Wilcher Reviewed CD: Shimmer". The Studio Quarterly Magazine. 11 (2). The Music Teachers Association of New South Wales. Retrieved 20 May 2013.
  2. ^ a b "'Daybreak' at APRA search engine". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 17 May 2013.
  3. ^ a b Wilcher, Phillip. "An Unforgettable Joy". Phillip Wilcher Official Website. Retrieved 5 April 2013.
  4. ^ a b c d e "Phillip Wilcher". Wirripang: Home of Australian Composers (Brennan Keats). Archived from the original on 4 February 2018. Retrieved 13 November 2012.
  5. ^ "Wilcher, Leslie James". World War Two Nominal Roll. Commonwealth of Australia. 2002. Retrieved 17 May 2013.
  6. ^ a b c d Schwartz, Larry (13 June 2004). "Band of Brothers: Also-Rans". The Age. Retrieved 15 May 2013.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Wilcher, Phillip. "Biography". Phillip Wilcher Official Website. Archived from the original on 23 March 2017. Retrieved 8 November 2012.
  8. ^ a b c d e Wilcher, Phillip (2007). "Papers of Phillip Wilcher, 1893–2010 [manuscript]". National Library of Australia. Retrieved 18 May 2013. Summary: MS 8877 comprises correspondence, including collector's letters, together with manuscript and typescript music scores, articles and other writings by Phillip Wilcher, and reviews, articles and other writings regarding Wilcher.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Dow, Steve (24 March 2003). "A Life Less Wiggly". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 8 November 2012.
  10. ^ a b c d Wilcher, Phillip (2016). Thinking Allowed: A life in conversation with itself. Wirripang. Retrieved 12 July 2018.
  11. ^ a b c "Phillip Wilcher". Wirripang. Retrieved 3 December 2018.
  12. ^ a b Page, Greg; Cadigan, Neil (2011). Now and Then: Greg Page. HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0-73049-729-5. Retrieved 18 May 2013.
  13. ^ In Australian pronunciation "Archie" is a loose rhyme for Liberace, i.e. "Lib-er-ah-chee".
  14. ^ a b March, Nick (22 April 2011). "Becoming the Top Preschool Band Was no Child's Play for Wiggles". The National. Abu Dhabi. Retrieved 9 November 2012.
  15. ^ McFarlane, Ian (1999). "Encyclopedia entry for 'The Cockroaches'". Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop. St Leonards, NSW: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-86508-072-1. Archived from the original on 19 April 2004. Retrieved 19 May 2013.
  16. ^ Wilcher, Phillip (1993), A Musical Offering: "A lesson plan comprising 6 early childhood musical activities", Concord, NSW: P. Wilcher, ISBN 978-0-646-13680-6
  17. ^ "Sounds and Silence". Australian Music Centre. Retrieved 23 December 2018.
  18. ^ Sams, Christine (1 August 2005). "The Fifth Wiggle speaks out". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 22 January 2007.
  19. ^ "Old Wiggle Says Band not Good for Kids". United Press International (UPI). 8 August 2005. Retrieved 18 May 2013.
  20. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 23 March 2017. Retrieved 27 July 2007.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  21. ^ a b Bugeja, Samuel (12 May 2017). "Self and Sound: The Music of Phillip Wilcher". Lot's Wife. Retrieved 12 July 2018.
  22. ^ "Six Etudes". Australian Music Centre. Retrieved 12 July 2018.
  23. ^ "Into His Countenance / Music by Phillip Wilcher". Australian Music Centre. 2008. Retrieved 20 May 2013.
  24. ^ a b Wilcher, Phillip; Carrigan, Jeanell; Muir, Amanda; Martin, John; Angell, David; Tolmie, Rachel; The Bourbaki Ensemble (2008), Into His Countenance, Publications by Wirripang. National Library of Australia, retrieved 20 May 2013
  25. ^ a b Smith, Mike (June 2004). "Shimmer – Music by Phillip Wilcher, Jeanell Carrigan, piano". Fine Music. 2MBS-FM. Retrieved 20 May 2013.
  26. ^ "Wilcher, Phillip (1958–)", Trove, National Library of Australia, 2011, retrieved 19 May 2013 Note: There may be some duplicates in this listing.
  27. ^ "Remembered on waking". Wirripang. Retrieved 3 December 2018.
  28. ^ a b c ""Heaven Haven" / Music: Phillip Wilcher; performed by: The Linden String Quartet". Australia Composers. 2014. Archived from the original on 4 February 2018. Retrieved 5 March 2014.
  29. ^ Block, Sally (14 November 2013). "Parents of Thomas Kelly 'absolutely horrified' at sentence for king-hit killer Kieran Loveridge". ABC News. Retrieved 8 March 2014.
  30. ^ a b ""The Voice of Love" / Music: Phillip Wilcher; piano: Jeanell Carrigan; cello: Minah Choe". Wirripang. 2017. Retrieved 6 July 2017.
  31. ^ a b c "Spellbound". Wirripang. Retrieved 8 July 2019.
  32. ^ "Spirit". Australian Music Centre. Retrieved 24 November 2018.
  33. ^ Smullyan, Raymond; Bispham, Peter (2009). In Their Own Words. Piano Society. p. 343. ISBN 9781409257561.
  34. ^ "Arabesque / the piano music of Phillip Wilcher / Jeanell Carrigan". Australian Music Centre. 2000. Retrieved 20 May 2013.
  35. ^ "Out of the Blowing Sands / the piano music of Phillip Wilcher / Jeanell Carrigan". Australian Music Centre. 2001. Retrieved 20 May 2013.
  36. ^ "Etchings / Jeanell Carrigan plays the piano music of Phillip Wilcher". Australian Music Centre. 2002. Retrieved 20 May 2013.
  37. ^ "Bundanon / Music by Phillip Wilcher; Jeanell Carrigan (piano)". Australian Music Centre. 2009. Retrieved 20 May 2013.
  38. ^ "Wind Chimes / Music: Phillip Wilcher; piano: Jeanell Carrigan". Australian Music Centre. 2011. Retrieved 20 May 2013.
  39. ^ "Goldleafing a Dream / Music by Phillip Wilcher". Australian Music Centre. 2011. Retrieved 20 May 2013.

External links[edit]