Composer Russ Garcia, 95, dies

STAR-STUDDED RESUME: Russ Garcia wrote music for Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Walt Disney, Judy Garland and Charlie Chaplin.
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STAR-STUDDED RESUME: Russ Garcia wrote music for Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Walt Disney, Judy Garland and Charlie Chaplin.

World-famous composer and arranger Russ Garcia died peacefully at his Kerikeri home at the weekend, aged 95.

Garcia was a composer and arranger who wrote a wide variety of music for screen, stage and broadcast.

He collaborated with many musical and Hollywood stars, including Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Walt Disney, Orson Welles, Ronald Reagan, Judy Garland, Henry Mancini, and Charlie Chaplin.

He was born in Oakland, California, but had lived in New Zealand for some time.

At the height of his career in 1966, Garcia and his wife, Gina, left the United States and set sail for the Pacific, eventually coming to New Zealand and falling in love with the Far North.

Garcia continued to compose and arrange from his Kerikeri home up until his death.

Wellington voice teacher Charles Humphreys commissioned one of Garcia's last arrangements in March last year.

"Russ is a very generous man," Humphreys said. "From the first time I spoke to him I could tell that this was a man who was peaceful and full of the kind of love of life and people that we all search a lifetime to possess. He wrote a lovely arrangement of East of the Sun for me and said 'well I think that will be the last peace of music I'll be writing'.

"I reckon he knew that he might be continuing to write somewhere else. We shall miss him."

A celebration of his life is to be held at 1.30pm in the events hall of the Turner Centre in Kerikeri on Sunday, November 27.

-Fairfax NZ