Rosalie Bonighton was born in Ballarat in 1946, she was raised among organs as her parents ran an organ technician business. Studying composition under Keith Humble, Ian Bonighton and, subsequently, Theodore Dollarhide and Lawrence Whiffin, she gained a Bachelor of Music from the University of Melbourne and completed her Master of Arts (Music) at La Trobe University in composition, including a thesis on Contemporary Liturgical Music and the Composer.
Among Bonighton’s musical influences were plainchant modes, British and Celtic folk song, the extended harmonic tensions and ambiguities of late German Romanticism, multi-rhythmic/ -metric groupings, jazz harmonies and syncopated effects, and some modified serial techniques.
When composing music, the functional requirements of a piece of music heavily influenced Bonighton’s choice of style, compositional techniques, structure, performing resources and level of performance difficulty. In her view, originality could be directed towards the craft of integrating aesthetic considerations with user requirements. Bonighton also experimented frequently with the use of jazz elements for the performance medium of pipe organ. In vocal/choral works, she saw a responsibility for true integration of music and text.
In 1967 Bonighton was awarded the Coutts Memorial Prize for Composition from the University of Melbourne. She also won the national Song of Jubilee competition (1999); in 1983 was co-winner of the national Competition for Liturgical Psalm-Setting; and winner of the New Zealand Association of Organists’ organ composition prize (2004-5).
Many individuals and organisations commissioned works from Bonighton, including the National Liturgical Music Convention (1992, 1995), the Royal School of Church Music Australia (1998, 1999, 2005), the University of Ballarat, and the Australian Music Examinations Board (Piano Sight Reading, pub. 2004). She was employed as a ‘house composer’ by music publishers Kevin Mayhew Ltd (UK) and has an extensive list of publications with them.
In addition to her activity as a composer, Bonighton worked as a school organist, a parish organist/music director, and a piano accompanist.
Bonighton believed there is a role for composers to address the needs and experiences of a wide community and to provide music which is simultaneously useful, educative, accessible, imaginative, challenging and uplifting, at all times the product of good craftsmanship.
Australia lost one of its greatest liturgical music composers with the death, in her home city, Ballarat, of Rosalie Bonighton, aged 65. She had been suffering cancer for a number of years.
Rosaline was cremated at the Ballarat New Cemetery and her ashes collected by family.