home‎ > ‎

Tributes to Peter Godfrey

A Tribute to Peter Godfrey Emeritus Professor CBE, 7 October 2017

Our Patron for the past ten years, Peter, died on Thursday 28 September 2017 following a fall, and then pneumonia.  His funeral for close friends and family was held in St Michael's Church Waikanae Beach on Friday 6 October with lovely tributes from his son-in-law Simon Tipping, three grandsons, and Judy Berryman.

Emeritus Professor, Peter Godfrey, CBE, Life Member of Kāpiti Chorale, was Musical Director of the Kāpiti Chorale from 1994 to May 2004, taken up when he retired to Waikanae on the Kāpiti Coast.  From 2004 he always attended our concerts, which he enjoyed.  He was instrumental in extending the repertoire, introducing a range of music, some quite challenging, to the choir and demanding very high standards, taking us out of our comfort zone and saying “when you know it, you will love it”.

Absences were frowned upon; he thought that choir should always come first and commitment be uppermost, as it was for him.  He took time in the early years to run ‘classes’ before choir practice for those whose musical knowledge was somewhat lacking.

In our book Kāpiti Chorale – The first Thirty Years, the author wrote

He cajoled, he entreated, he encouraged and he berated but always with the benign authority that he knew what he was doing and was right…

There would not have been anyone in NZ at the time with his experience and depth of knowledge and skills in music.  Rest in peace Peter and know that many will continue to sing on into the future.

Carol Dyer (posted on the NZ Choral Federation page)

To the KĀPITI CHORALE, past and present members

We are all so incredibly saddened by the news of Peter’s death.  I know, having followed directly in his footprints as Musical Director of the Kāpiti Chorale, how much you respected, admired and loved him as a musician and as a friend and I share your sadness today.

Peter was undoubtedly the most influential person in my musical life.  As a student in the Music Department of Auckland University I joined the Auckland University Singers where I made wonderful friends for life and got totally hooked on choral singing.  Following that I joined his very grown-up Dorian Choir until I left to travel.  When Peter came to Wellington I was for a time his Deputy Conductor of the Orpheus Choir and a few years later when he felt Wellington needed a Youth Choir I was the person he approached to be its inaugural conductor.  Then of course he entrusted his beloved Kāpiti Chorale to me…an honour, challenge and joy.

This email is not about me, it’s about the influence a charismatic and inspirational musician has had on several generations of singers, conductors and composers.  We have been truly privileged to have shared some of his journey.  His legend lives on and will continue to live on in the stunning choirs and choral directors NZ produces.

I hope you can all have time to share your stories together, share a laugh and celebrate the wonderful years and memories he gave you.

Much love to you all,


John Rosser Chair NZCF commented on

... the sheer force of Peter’s personality, the quality of his leadership and the almost daunting brilliance of his musicianship.  In the outpouring of heartfelt tributes to Peter since his death last Thursday, perhaps the word used most often to describe him is inspirational.  He inspired thousands of choristers across many years and choirs and has had, from what I read and have been told, a lasting effect on many of their lives.  He has certainly provided major inspiration to the careers of a great number of this country’s singers, conductors and composers, and through them his influence will continue be felt for many decades to come.

Peter was great to watch, listen to and sing for.  He had a beautiful conducting style, a love of words and context, an unerring ear, an urbane wit and a fabulous rehearsal technique.  He insisted on accurate tuning and shapely phrasing, and we were desperate to respond.  He taught us to aim for the highest standards and yet singing with him was always, because of the discipline rather than in spite of it, huge fun.  I came away from more than one Godfrey rehearsal feeling that this – making vocal harmony with others – was what I wanted to spend my life doing. That it has become a reality I owe in very great part to Peter’s inspiration.  Many others will say the same.

As a humble alto in the Kāpiti Chorale it is thanks to Peter Godfrey, our Musical Director and friend, for the pleasure and privilege of singing so much glorious music for so many years.  His wry comments to those not up to standard will always be remembered:

Tenors, please try not to sound so agricultural  and

Altos – lovely.  Now next time try to sing the correct notes.

Thank you, Peter.  Farewell.

Norma McCallum

It was my privilege, as you know, to be emcee at the Chorale function we had back a few years now.  I knew Peter since the early 1960s and always admired his musicianship, professionalism and enthusiasm,  plus of course the ability always to inspire people always to do better.  It's hard to find the right words when you lose a friend of his stature.

My regards to all the Chorale members - I very much miss it all.

Thanks again and love to all,

Ross Wards

On the eve of Peter’s 90th birthday, he was a guest of the Kāpiti Chorale who proudly celebrated this landmark birthday with their patron guest of honour. On that occasion we recognised that Peter touches us on three levels: 

1) a direct influence, as many of us sang under him; 

2) our choir is defined by his 10-year directorship; and 

3) our choir is in a nation where choral music flourishes thanks to Peter’s vision and drive.

We are deeply saddened to no longer have our patron at our concerts.

Janie Cook

Access to radio programmes


and Radio NZ has tributes and photos of him. 

Karen Grylls spoke warmly of Peter on Upbeat:


Memorial Service St Paul's Cathedral Wellington Sunday 12 November at 5pm

This will be a choral celebration of Peter's life; the choirs which Peter founded or conducted have been invited to join in and provide an item and it has been suggested that the massed choir sing How lovely are thy dwellings (Brahms German Requiem) and Occuli Omnium.  There will be three hymns as well.

Further details will be given when available.