In incredibly sad news, it has been revealed by the Australian Romantic & Classical Orchestra that Richard Gill AO – the much-loved conductor and music educator – died at his Sydney home on Sunday after a year-long battle with cancer.

Tributes have been pouring in on social media for a man who was one of the great inspirers and activists of Australian music. On Saturday, 70 brass players gathered outside his house in Stanmore to play the Dam Busters March to show their love and support.

Richard Gill. Photo © Sam Grimmer

The Australian Romantic & Classical Orchestra has also announced the Richard Gill Memorial Fund, established at the maestro’s request to support the objectives of the orchestra and the development of young Australian musicians.

Gill wrote a bi-monthy column for Limelight from 2014 about Australian music, frequently pleading passionately for music education, and his writing was always welcomed by readers. He was absolutely thrilled when it was announced in September that a new independent primary school, founded after discussion with him, is to be established in Muswellbrook by the Muswellbrook Shire Council. The Muswellbrook Richard Gill Music Academy, which is due to open in 2020, will be an independent K-6 Primary School driven by Gill’s unique vision, with music and physical education as cornerstones of the curriculum.

The Dam Busters March for Richard Gill. Video by Jacqui Smith

In his last two columns for Limelight, published in October and our forthcoming November issue, he wrote about how much the school meant to him.

Gill was born in November 1941. In September 2016, to celebrate his 75th birthday, Limelight ran an in-depth profile of his life, career and passionate aims called Meet Australia’s Great Agitator.

Among his numerous recent achievements, he co-founded the Australian Romantic & Classical Orchestra with Nicole van Bruggen and Rachael Beesley six years ago. In an obituary on its website, the Australian Romantic & Classical Orchestra wrote: “Richard was a champion of Australian music with no equal. As a celebrated conductor, an educator of children, musicians and curious audience members, and most recently, a founder of the Australian Romantic & Classical Orchestra, he will be remembered for his contagious energy and flamboyant rhetoric. His passing is a profound loss for the Australian Romantic & Classical Orchestra and Australia alike.”

Richard Gill. Photo by Sam Grimmer

On Monday November 5, a concert called Richard Gill’s Birthday Bash is being held at Sydney’s City Recital Hall, featuring music that he particularly loved. Tickets were snapped up very quickly. The Australian Romantic & Classical Orchestra, Sydney Chamber Choir, Young Mannheim Symphonists, The Arts Unit (NSW) and more will perform in the concert with journalist and author Leigh Sales as the MC. The evening’s events were to have been streamed live to Gill at home in Sydney.

“Like the fading of a beautiful sustained note, or that magical silence following a fabulous performance, a loss as significant as Richard Gill cannot be adequately explained or understood,” concludes the Australian Romantic & Classical Orchestra obituary. “This loss – like music – evokes, suggests and implies. But what we can do is keep making a multitude of sounds. And in every one of them, we know and celebrate that Richard is still there with us. Thank you, Richard.”

Everyone at Limelight echoes their sentiments and joins them in thanking the one and only Richard Gill.