Dr John Christopher Bradshaw

John Christopher Bradshaw was born at Adlington, Lancashire, England, on 23 June 1876.  He studied the organ under James Kendrick Pyne at the Royal Manchester College of Music, and in 1901 he graduated Doctor of Music from Victoria University, Manchester.

In 1901 he declined an appointment as Organist of Ripon Cathedral for health reasons, and instead applied for the vacant position of Organist and Master of the Choristers at the Anglican Cathedral in Christchurch, New Zealand.  He was appointed in February 1902, and arrived in Christchurch in April.

Bradshaw quickly improved the musical performance of services at the Cathedral and maintained a full choir of boys and men. The Choir's reputation, within and beyond New Zealand, came from Bradshaw's concentration on rhythmic precision, impeccable intonation and immaculate diction.

Bradshaw's renowned organ playing complemented the choir's performance.  His accompaniments enhanced the texts, his extemporisations echoed the mood of the service and his voluntaries extended the act of worship.  His technique was impeccable and his playing noted for its clear articulation, deft footwork and imaginative registration.

Bradshaw was also steeped in the late nineteenth-century English tradition of the public organ recital.  With their programmes a mixture of descriptive pieces, transcriptions of orchestral works and items from the standard organ repertoire, these recitals brought music to a broad cross-section of the population.

Bradshaw's own career as recitalist began as official organist at the New Zealand International Exhibition in Christchurch in 1906–7.  He was made Christchurch City Organist in 1908 and gave regular recitals at His Majesty's Theatre until 1917.  His repertoire of nearly 700 items, extending from Bach to the music of his contemporaries (but excluding anything decidedly 'modern'), reached wider audiences from the late 1930s when programmes were broadcast from the Civic Theatre.

Bradshaw devoted 40 years to music education as lecturer at Canterbury College (later Canterbury University College) where he was appointed to a full-time position as Professor of Music when the chair was established in late 1937.  Ill health forced his retirement at the end of 1941 and he died at Christchurch on 16 January 1950.

Bradshaw's presence in Christchurch had ramifications far beyond his initial appointment as Cathedral Organist.  While he reinforced the already strong English influence in local music-making and music education, he also introduced standards of excellence which he maintained uncompromisingly for nearly half a century in isolation from his own sources of inspiration.  That he moved many to emulate him testifies to his dedication to his art and outweighs a generally conservative attitude to repertoire and teaching.

His contribution to music has been recognised by a commissioned portrait presented to the city in 1934.  His 'Cantuariensium carmen academicum', still opens the University's annual graduation ceremonies, and the J. C. Bradshaw memorial organ (donated by Muriel Bradshaw to the University's School of Music) is fitting commemoration of his art.

From an article by Brian W. Pritchard, published in Dictionary of New Zealand Biography,