From Wellington Cathedral of St Paul
Peter Godfrey M.A., MusB(Cantab), FRCO, FRSCM, ARCM
Director of Music, 1982-1989
Director of Music Emeritus, 2002-
Peter Godfrey is one of New Zealand’s most respected musicians.
He was born in 1922 of farming stock in the Fen Country of East Anglia. It was due to his mother’s ambition that he became a chorister in King’s College Chapel Choir at the age of nine. Peter spent five years in the choir and took part in their first overseas tour in April 1936. He attended Denstone College on a music scholarship and studied there from 1937 to 1940. It was there that Peter became interested in rifle shooting; he later shot for Denstone, Cambridge University and England.
Peter returned to King’s College as a choral scholar at the beginning of 1941 and completed a Bachelor of Music in the middle of 1942. He was in the army from 42 to 45, ending up as a captain in the King’s African Rifles in east Africa. After returning to England he married Sheila McNeile and returned for one more year to King’s where he completed a Bachelor of Arts in 1946.
Peter then attended the Royal College of Music for a year studying organ, piano and singing. At the same time he became involved in teaching, initially for two terms at Felsted School, and then for 2 years at Uppingham School. In 1949 Peter was invited to go to Marlborough College as Assistant Director of Music and as organist at the local parish church. He also took on the Pewsey Women’s Institute Choir. Peter’s teaching at the school led to his appointment in 1954 as Director of Music at Marlborough College.
Peter’s overseas travels with the army had left him interested in working overseas. An invitation came from Melbourne in 1952, but ultimately it was in 1957 that Peter accepted a University Lectureship at Auckland University. Immediately he received an invitation to become Director of Music of Auckland Anglican Cathedral. So Peter, Sheila and their four daughters sailed out to New Zealand by boat in September 1958.
Early in 1959 he was invited to become conductor of the Auckland String Players, which Georg Tintner had established during the War. Four years later he turned this into a full symphony orchestrawhich was part-time professional . The University gave Peter a year on full pay to do this. However, in 1968 they told him that he should either give up the orchestra or the Lectureship at the University. Juan Matteucci was hovering in the background, having just left the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, and so I gave up my conductorship of the Auckland Symphonia.
In 1961, Peter was also offered the conductorship of the Auckland Dorian Choir, a position which he held until the end of 1982. During his tenure the choir established itself as one of New Zealand’s finest ensembles through performance, recording, and touring; first in 1975, to Europe and the United Kingdom, then back to England in 1977 to fulfil an invitation to perform in the BBC Proms. The tour programme also included a concert in the Three Choirs Festival at Gloucester.
In 1969 I founded the Auckland University Festival Choir as a result of an invitation to represent NZ at the Universities choral festival in New York in 1972. This was a choir of 40 singers, which toured USA and England in April of that year. This choir later became the Auckland University Singers, which was invited to attend the ISME conference in Perth in 1974.
In 1970 Peter was appointed Associate Professor at the University; in 1974 he was appointed Professor of Music which unfortunately resulted in him retiring his Directorship at the Cathedral. However, his close association with Cathedral music continued as he was invited to take on the choir of King’s College, Cambridge for six months in 1978, as the then director, Philip Ledger, desired a break. Peter also conducted the Cambridge University Musical Society Chorus and Orchestra. He was awarded an MBE in 1978.
In 1979 he was invited to join the inauguration of the New Zealand National Youth Choir by their founder Guy Jansen as co-conductor. This choir undertook an overseas tour to Europe and England in 1982. As Guy Jansen had decided to retire form the choir after the 1982 tour Peter was invited to become Director. At the same time there became a vacancy at Wellington Cathedral of Saint Paul; Peter had greatly missed his role in Cathedral music since retiring from Holy Trinity in Auckland, and as the headquarters of the National Youth Choir was in Wellington he decided to accept an invitation to move to Wellington at the end of 1982.
In 1984 he was invited to take over the conductorship of the Wellington Orpheus Choir from its founder, Malcolm Rickard.
In 1988 Peter took the National Youth Choir on a two month European tour, to Llangollen, Hungary, Germany, Italy, France and England. The choir sang in the Three Choirs Festival at Hereford. Peter had decided that this should be his final stint with the National Youth Choir as he knew a brilliant female conductor, Karen Grylls, was waiting in the wings for such a choir. Thus he retired at the end of 1988. He was awarded a CBE for his services to choral music. At about the same time he received an invitation to help form a choral foundation at Trinity College, University of Melbourne: this he accepted and so he and Shiela left Wellington in the middle of 1989. They stayed in Australia until the end of 1991, after which they returned home to Waikanae.
It was not long before Mrs Paddy Nash (who had been the administrator of the National Youth Choir in Peter’s days as Director) and who now lived in the Kapiti Coast close to Peter’s home in Waikanae suggested that he should start a choir locally. So the Kapiti Chamber Choir was formed in 1992. This has continued as an annually auditioned choir of about 35 singers.
In 1994 Peter was invited to become conductor of the Kapiti Chorale, which had been founded and run by Lois McNeill for a number of years. She was retiring to Blenheim. Peter felt that there was no room for another chamber choir, and so decided to make this a large all-comers choir. This choir has maintained numbers of about 100 since then, generally giving three concerts a year of the larger choral repertoire.
Peter was appointed Director of Music Emeritus by Dean Michael Brown in March 2002.