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Obituary: Peter Godfrey, CBE (CR 1949-58)

Peter Godfrey, Director of Music at Marlborough College from 1949-58, died on 28th September 2017.

Peter was born in 1922 in Bluntisham, Cambridgeshire. Loving music from an early age he first auditioned for the choir of King’s College in 1930 but, on this occasion, was sadly unsuccessful. He tried again in 1931 and, this time, he won a place on the choir. He went on to win a music scholarship in to Denstone College in 1937 and in 1941 a scholarship to King’s College as a bass choral scholar.

After the war, he entered the Royal College of Music and started teaching at Felsted School, Essex before becoming Music Director at Marlborough College.

He moved to Auckland, New Zealand in 1958 to be a lecturer at Auckland University where he remained for 24 years taking the music department from strength to strength to become a centre of excellence. He eventually became Dean and Head of the Music Department.

During his time in Auckland he was also the Director of music at St Mary’s Cathedral, Conductor of the Auckland String Players, he formed the Symphonia of Auckland and led the University festival Choir to success at the choral festival in New York and, under his charge, the New Zealand Choir won the BBC Let the People Sing Competition.

He moved to Wellington in 1982 where he took up Directorship of Music for the National Youth Choir from 1982 to 88, Directorship of Music at St Paul’s Cathedral in Wellington from 1983 to 89 and Directorship of the Orpheus Choir from 1984 91. He also founded the found the New Zealand Choral Federation in 1985.

He was appointed MBE in 1978, Professor Emeritus at Auckland University in 1982 and CBE in 1988. His biography, Peter Godfrey: Father of New Zealand Choral Music, was published in 2015.

When he retired he moved to Waikanae on the Kapiti Close where he became Director of the Kapiti Chamber Choir and of the 100-member Kapiti Chorale. He was also conductor and organist at St Michael’s Church, Waikanae.

He is survived by his three daughters from his first wife Sheila, who died in 1993, and his second wife, Jane.

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