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 64)
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 and 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. Early in 1991 Wilcher joined The Wiggles after he met co-founder Anthony Field, who requested Wicher's assistance in recording the group's self-titled debut album. Wilcher was a major contributor for the music of the album, but he left the group shortly after its release to focus on his classical music career.

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 on 16 March 1958 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, computer, 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 by Leslie Ritter and Scott Petito (The Fugs) on their album, Circles in Sand (2001),[2][10] and re-recorded in 2006 by John Martin on his CD, Ancient Rivers.[4]

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. 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]

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 join his newly formed children's music group, The Wiggles, and 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.[11][12] He performed in two of the group's videos, "Get Ready to Wiggle" and "Dorothy the Dinosaur".[8][9][13]

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".[11] Australian Record Industry Association (ARIA) awarded the band members, including Wilcher, with gold and platinum certificates for the album.[14]

In 1993, Wilcher published a lesson plan for early childhood activities, A Musical Offering.[15] By the late 1990s, 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] Wilcher has been called "the fifth Wiggle" in the press for his part in the early history of the group.[6][7][16] In 2005, when The Wiggles had become Australia's most successful children's act,[13] he seemed to criticise The Wiggles in the press, but he has since recanted, stating that reporters had misrepresented him and that he chose to remain silent in the aftermath of their articles.[17][18]

Later career[edit]

Phillip Wilcher's career was described by The Sydney Morning Herald's Steve Dow as "an eclectic mix of classical and flim-flam".[9] He has published over 100 piano-related works.[8][19] Wilcher 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.[20][21]

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] 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".[22]

As well as composing, Wilcher has performed both solo and with ensembles.[8][19] 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 2014, Wilcher released Heaven-Haven.[23] 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;[24] 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.[23]


  • 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.


Studio albums
  • Arabesque (2000)[25]
  • Out of the Blowing Sands (2001)[26]
  • Etchings (2002)[27]
  • Shimmer (2004)[1][22]
  • Bundanon (2009)[28]
  • Wind Chimes (2012)[29]
  • Heaven Haven (2014)[23]
Compilation albums
  • Into His Countenance (2008)[21]
  • Goldleafing a Dream (2011) [30]




  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 c "'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). 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. Retrieved 8 November 2012.
  8. ^ a b c d e f 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. ^ "Circles in Sand by Leslie Ritter & Scott Petito". iTunes. Apple Inc. 7 June 2001. Retrieved 18 May 2013.
  11. ^ a b Page, Greg; Cadigan, Neil (2011). Now and Then: Greg Page. HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0-73049-729-5. Retrieved 18 May 2013.
  12. ^ In Australian pronunciation "Archie" is a loose rhyme for Liberace, i.e. "Lib-er-ah-chee".
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ 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
  16. ^ Sams, Christine (1 August 2005). "The Fifth Wiggle speaks out". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 22 January 2007.
  17. ^ "Old Wiggle Says Band not Good for Kids". United Press International (UPI). 8 August 2005. Retrieved 18 May 2013.
  18. ^
  19. ^ a b "Wilcher, Phillip (1958–)", Trove, National Library of Australia, 2011, retrieved 19 May 2013 Note: There may be some duplicates in this listing.
  20. ^ "Into His Countenance / Music by Phillip Wilcher". Australian Music Centre. 2008. Retrieved 20 May 2013.
  21. ^ 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
  22. ^ a b Smith, Mike (June 2004). "Shimmer – Music by Phillip Wilcher, Jeanell Carrigan, piano". Fine Music. 2MBS-FM. Retrieved 20 May 2013.
  23. ^ a b c ""Heaven Haven" / Music: Phillip Wilcher; performed by: The Linden String Quartet". Australia Composers. 2014. Retrieved 5 March 2014.
  24. ^ 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.
  25. ^ "Arabesque / the piano music of Phillip Wilcher / Jeanell Carrigan". Australian Music Centre. 2000. Retrieved 20 May 2013.
  26. ^ "Out of the Blowing Sands / the piano music of Phillip Wilcher / Jeanell Carrigan". Australian Music Centre. 2001. Retrieved 20 May 2013.
  27. ^ "Etchings / Jeanell Carrigan plays the piano music of Phillip Wilcher". Australian Music Centre. 2002. Retrieved 20 May 2013.
  28. ^ "Bundanon / Music by Phillip Wilcher; Jeanell Carrigan (piano)". Australian Music Centre. 2009. Retrieved 20 May 2013.
  29. ^ "Wind Chimes / Music: Phillip Wilcher; piano: Jeanell Carrigan". Australian Music Centre. 2011. Retrieved 20 May 2013.
  30. ^ "Goldleafing a Dream / Music by Phillip Wilcher". Australian Music Centre. 2011. Retrieved 20 May 2013.

External links[edit]

Template:The Wiggles