Douglas Lilburn was born in Wanganui in 1915. He moved to Christchurch to study at Canterbury University College, and went on to the Royal College of Music, London. He was tutored in composition by Ralph Vaughan Williams and remained at the College until 1939.
He returned to New Zealand the following year, and worked in Christchurch as a freelance composer and teacher. In 1947, Douglas Lilburn shifted to Wellington to take up a position at Victoria University, and moved up the ranks to Professor. In 1966, Lilburn founded the Electronic Music Studio at the University and was its Director until 1979, a year before his retirement. He was presented with the Composers’ Association of New Zealand Citation for Services to New Zealand Music in 1978. In 1988 he was awarded the Order of New Zealand. Douglas Lilburn, described as “the elder statesman of New Zealand music” and the “grandfather of New Zealand music,” died peacefully at his home in Wellington on 6 June 2001.
Lilburn composed A Birthday Offering in 1956 for the tenth anniversary of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.