Vale Dr Robert Keith Boughen OBE, 1929–2024

15 Mar 2024

The University of Queensland School of Music acknowledges the extraordinary life of Dr Robert Boughen, who passed away on 24 February 2024. His presence in the world of music, a career spanning almost eight decades, has left an indelible mark on Australian church music and organ scholarship.

Dr Boughen was born in Brisbane in 1929. A graduate of the Church of England Grammar School, he would later shape its musical future as Chapel Organist and founder of the Chapel Choir. Under the tutelage of George Sampson and Archie Day, Dr Boughen's talents flourished. As a teacher he served with distinction across Australia, from Scots' Church in Hobart to his role at The University of Queensland (UQ). He commenced at UQ in 1977 where he was a graduate tutor and conductor, before becoming Senior Lecturer in 1985. He served as the University Organist from 1976 to 2003, where he contributed to the design of the Mayne Hall organ, playing a pivotal role in the Queensland musical community.

Dr Boughen’s contributions to St. John’s Cathedral as Organist and Master of Choristers and his foundational work with QPAC's Klais organ have sculpted Brisbane’s musical landscape. His versatility shone through in his ABC ensemble Music We Love, which showcased his innovative arrangements across popular and jazz genres. He also produced compositions including the hymns Urquhart, Bramwell, Bennelong, St. Lucia Mass, St. Stephens Mass and Ave Maria, in addition to nine masses, five evensongs, vesicles and responses and over forty anthems, numerous introits, secular vocal works and arrangements.             

An avid supporter of Australian music, Dr Boughen curated a significant catalogue and discography of Australian composers and organists. His performance repertoire was vast, embracing the complete solo organ works of classical giants including J.S. Bach and Olivier Messiaen; bringing organ music to the public through recitals at Brisbane City Hall.
Dr Boughen’s performances in China and his service as a fighter pilot underscored a life of dedication and adventures. His enthusiasm for flying matched his adoration of music, with innovative flying visits to tutor regional organists further highlighting his unique blend of talents. 

In 1995, Dr Boughen was awarded a Doctorate of Music by the Archbishop of Canterbury, followed by an Honorary Doctorate from UQ recognising his service to church music. His other accolades include a Churchill Fellowship, an OBE. for his contributions to Australian music, and his role as Senior Examiner for AMEB. As a National Patron of The Australian Guild of Master Organ Builders and Patron of the Theatre Organ Society of Australia, Queensland division, he further served the wider music community. 

In his final years, Dr Boughen continued to captivate audiences, arranging and composing music that resonated with all who were privileged to listen. Dr Boughen's last series of performances consisted of concerts at St Stephen’s Cathedral and Christ Church St Lucia; he accompanied a silent film for TOSA QLD; and he participated in a Writers' Festival at Four Winds Bermagui, where his Gershwin and Cole Porter selections delighted the capacity audience. Together with his wife Christina, an accomplished musician herself, they raised a family steeped in musical heritage.

The School of Music, his students, colleagues and the wider community will fondly remember Robert Boughen for his generous spirit, his profound impact on music education and his enduring legacy in the arts.