The Risingholme Orchestra is one of New Zealand’s few daytime orchestras. Repertoire covers a variety of genres from full symphonies such as Gounod’s First, Tchaikovsky’s Fourth and Beethoven’s Fifth, to Gilbert and Sullivan overtures, show tunes, film medleys and new works by local composers.

Risingholme Orchestra does much to foster music in the community. Young musicians who attend the Pettman Academy have been invited to perform concertos with the orchestra, and local composers have their works performed including Alex van den Broek, Philip Norman, John Emeleus, Eric Biddington, and Doug Kelly.  The orchestra also visits Retirement Villages and schools to make live orchestral music accessible to the public.

The members of the orchestra are of mixed ages (currently 25 to 97) and occupations, and include people who work part time, flexible hours or in shifts as well as  parents and retirees.  They all come for the great joy of playing orchestral music together.  Many members have returned to their instrument after a hiatus of some years, a few only started music lessons in adulthood, while others are continuing what has been a constant love affair of playing music throughout their life. They were recently asked to state what they like about the orchestra in one sentence – here are a few of their responses:

“It is wonderful to be playing in a full size symphony orchestra – to be right in the middle of music that you have only heard on a CD. Being surrounded by enthusiastic and talented musicians playing ‘like mad’ is a real thrill”

“I often arrive at orchestra tired and dispirited and always leave on a ‘musicians’ high’ – restored and refreshed”

“The conductor really inspires us to play well. I am playing music that I would never imagined that I could play”

“In so many ways, this activity is the highlight of our week.”

Risingholme Orchestra was founded by Bunny Thompson and Mary Dew in 1992.  Its first conductor and musical director was Robert Field Dodgson MBE with subsequent conductors including Frank Dennis, John Emeleus, Luke di Somma, Anthony Ferner and Philip Norman.  We celebrate our 25th anniversary in 2017.

Musical Director – Philip Norman CNZM

photo: Gareth Watkins/ Lilburn Trust/ Wallace Arts Trust

When not conducting Risingholme Orchestra, Philip works as a freelance composer and author. His compositions span the breadth of the performing arts as do his writings, with a particular interest in the work of other New Zealand composers. A PhD graduate of the University of Canterbury, he has had extensive experience in musical direction, arts administration and arts advocacy throughout his 40-year career in Christchurch. He is chairperson of the Concerts for Christchurch Foundation and a trustee of The Piano, Centre for Music and the Arts. He was invested as a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2015 ‘for services to music and music theatre’.


photo: Gareth Watkins / Lilburn Trust / Wallace Arts Trust

Orchestra Leader – Amandine Guerin

Amandine Guerin

Amandine Guerin plays first violin with the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra. She studied music in France and graduated from the Conservatoire National de Region of Montpellier.  Besides her teaching activities, she was concertmaster of the Ensemble Instrumental Contrepoint. From 1998 she lived in Tokyo where she was violin and young ensemble teacher at the International Music School Solfran as well as a player in various orchestras and chamber music groups. Arriving in New Zealand in 2004, she first lived in Dunedin where she played as first violin and acting concertmaster in the Southern Symphonia before moving to Christchurch.

Radio NZ Interview

Katie Gosset interviews members of the Risingholme Orchestra:

Radio NZ: Southern Story – Risingholme Orchestra (17th November 2011)


Risingholme Orchestra is grateful for financial support from The Rata Foundation – formerly The Canterbury Community Trust, Christchurch Creative Communities NZ program, the National Library of NZ, and the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra.

Rātā Foundation


Chairperson Leane Gurney
Vice Chairperson Pauline Sewell
Secretary Tonya Sadler
Treasurer Philippa Graham
Librarian Linda Sorensen
Committee Ross Gurney
  Barbara Peddie
  Terry Williams
  Kate McSweeney
Patron John Emeleus