About the Chorale

The purposes of the Chorale are to be beneficial to the community by:

Chorale constitution

The Kāpiti Chorale: a jewel of the Coast

We are the largest and longest-serving mixed-voice choir on the Coast. We are proud of our 40 year history of delighting Kāpiti audiences through our performances of inspiring choral music across different genres.

We are an “open” or “self-selecting” choir, which means there are no auditions, but we aspire to high standards of performance and people who can follow music will fit more easily into the Chorale family. Our members proudly share the joy of singing and performing exceptional music with the sense of purpose and fellowship that this brings. Many of our members have been with the Chorale a long time, bringing continuity and dedication, and have flourished in its nurturing and welcoming environment whose magic inspires enthusiasm, commitment and loyalty.

Some of our members say why they joined the Kāpiti Chorale:

“I love music but have no special talent yet the Kāpiti Chorale with its excellent leadership from our Music Director, our accompanists (orchestra, organ and/ or piano) and first class soloists enable me to be part of exceptional music experiences that both broaden my horizons and bring me to new levels of understanding.”

“I love the learning opportunities it offers.”

“I love the sense of anticipation as we prepare for a concert and the feeling of being part of a memorable occasion.”

“Being a member of the Kāpiti Chorale allows me to sing quality and at times challenging music in a group that is capable of achieving complex harmonies and dynamics.”

“I am a member of the Kāpiti Chorale for the pleasure and joy that singing brings, for the way in which it is good for the soul and encourages both mental and physical wellbeing. An added bonus has been the friendship and camaraderie I have found.”

The character of the Chorale we seek to project is:

We describe the Chorale as:

An abridged history

1983: Waikanae Chorale

Twenty singers gathered in St. Patrick's Catholic Church hall in Waikanae on a humid October night in 1983 for their first concert. Conductor Lois McNeill and her Waikanae Chorale, with accompanists Helen Stevenson and Elaine Smith, prepared to sing their songs from Elgar and Bernstein. Lois's dedication and enterprise founded a choir in March 1983 that has gone on to celebrate its 40th anniversary in 2023.

In the 1950s and '60s there was a Kāpiti Choral Society, and in 1988 there were three choirs on the Coast: the Waikanae Chorale, the Harmony Chorale directed by Elizabeth Giles and the Ecumenical Choir directed by John Benson. Only the Waikanae Chorale survived; in 1989 it became the Kāpiti Coast Chorale, then in 1994 the Kāpiti Chorale, one of the largest choirs on the Kāpiti Coast with up to 100 voices at times.

The longevity of the Chorale is spoken for in its continued membership; many have been with the choir for 20 years or more. At the time of our 40th anniversary, one singer had participated in almost every concert since the Waikanae Chorale's inception in 1983!

The choir has sung in cathedrals, village halls, a pub, the Wellington Botanic and other lovely gardens, Southwards Dell, churches, school auditoriums, shopping malls and at funerals and weddings.  It has given pleasure to audiences with more than 120 concerts, and looks forward to being an important part of the Kāpiti Coast's musical life for many years to come.

1994—2004: Peter Godfrey, Patron to 2017

Peter Godfrey, a world-acknowledged choral director, retired to the Kāpiti Coast after a lifetime of choral work.  His 'retirement' lasted a very short time as he promptly set up the Kāpiti Chamber Choir and soon after accepted the Music Directorship of the Kāpiti Chorale. He broadened the Chorale's repertoire to include a range of 'great works'. Having celebrated his 95th birthday in April 2017, he continued to support the Chorale until his death in 2017.

With Peter's support, Lois McNeill initiated the tradition of the bi-annual Community Choir.  This gave many Kāpiti residents the opportunity to sing major choral works they had always enjoyed listening to.  While the core of the Community Choir was the Kāpiti Chorale and Kāpiti Chamber Choir, all-comers were invited: "If you have ever wanted to sing Händel's Messiah, come along and join us", said the posters.  And so they did, with varying degrees of musical ability, but always with huge dedication and enthusiasm.

2004: Stuart Douglas, Guest Director

In 2004 Stuart Douglas became the Chorale's Guest Director, preparing the choir for three concert sessions.  Stuart is still a valued friend of the Chorale.  He later was appointed Music Director of the Kāpiti Chamber Choir.  As well as choral conducting, Stuart has also conducted the Wellington Chamber Orchestra, the Wellington Schools Symphonic Band and the Hutt Valley Concert Orchestra.  He was again Guest Conductor for the Chorale's Messiah performance at the end of 2013.

2005August 2013:  Marie Brown

The next Music Director was part-time Kāpiti Coast resident, Marie Brown, in whose hands the choir continued to develop.  With her, the choir successfully met ever greater challenges and was introduced to many new exciting works such as Jenkins' The Armed Man. Marie is also a pianist, for many years playing at St. Brigid's in Wadestown and for the Saturday night music group at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart.  Her Master of Philosophy degree is in Violoncello performance and her name can be found as 'cellist' on past programmes of Kāpiti Chorale performances with orchestra.  She was a Director on the Board of the NZSO.  Marie resigned from the Chorale when she moved to Auckland, but she has since returned to Wellington.

2014—present: Eric Sidoti

In October 2013, Eric Sidoti was appointed Kāpiti Chorale Music Director to start in 2014.  A Porirua resident, Eric was Music Director of the Wainuiomata Choir (a role he relinquished to join us), and also the Music Director of the Kāpiti Chamber Choir.  He is Music Director of the biennial Hutt Valley Gang Show, Choir Conductor of St. John's in the City, and founding Music Director for Voices in the Wind (launched in 2019). 

Kāpiti Chorale Award in Vocal Performance

To encourage talent in young performers and future soloists, in 2008 the Kāpiti Chorale inaugurated an annual Award in Vocal Performance for second-year students of The New Zealand School of Music.  The choir is enthusiastic in its support of young singers, and the lift which the acknowledgement brings to a student during the difficult second year is rewarding. 

Life members

In November 2008, after the choir's 25th Anniversary Gala Concert, Professor Peter Godfrey CBE, Peter Averi ONZM, and Ellen Barrett were honoured with Life Membership by the Kāpiti Chorale for their valuable support and encouragement of the choir.

In August 2013, the Chorale awarded Marie Brown Life Membership in recognition of her outstanding contribution to the Kāpiti Chorale during her eight years of Directorship.

All four individuals have been stalwart supporters of the Kāpiti Chorale over the years.

Professor Peter Godfrey

Peter Godfrey was involved with choral music both nationally and internationally and 'retired' to the Kāpiti Coast in 1992. Within a few weeks, he was persuaded to start the Kāpiti Chamber Choir and some years later, took on the Kāpiti Chorale. Later he was also involved with Waikanae's Anglican Church of St Michael as organist and conductor of their Evensong choir.

Retiring from the Kāpiti Chorale in 2004, he then handed over the Chamber Choir in 2006, but continued to sing in St. Michael's choir.

He felt most fortunate to have been able to continue his musical career for so long and thanked "the lovely singers on the Kāpiti Coast" for their enthusiastic and talented support. 

Professor Peter Godfrey CBE

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, New Zealand Choral Federation) 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."
"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:

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

Janie Cook

Peter Godfrey, the 'father' of NZ Choral Music has died
Karen Grylls, Upbeat (RNZ Concert, 29 Sep 2017)

Farewell to the "father of choral music" in New Zealand
New Zealand Choral Federation, 01 Oct 2017

A memorial service for Peter was held at St. Paul's Cathedral, Wellington on Sunday 12th November 2017, 5pm. A choral celebration of Peter's life, choirs which Peter founded or conducted were invited to each contribute an item. The choirs together sang How lovely are thy dwellings (Brahms German Requiem) and Occuli Omnium.

Peter Averi: Patron and organist

Peter Averi has been closely associated with the Chorale since 1992, when he played the organ in performances of Händel's Messiah at El Rancho, Waikanae and Otaki. From then until 2015 he played in almost all of the Chorale's concerts as an accompanist and soloist, and was the Guest Conductor of a concert in 2000. The choir presented an impressive range of major choral works, many of them scored for orchestral accompaniment which Peter adapted for the organ.

He also enjoyed accompanying the considerable number of large-scale cathedral anthems of Händel, Parry, Stanford etc. which were performed. 

For many years Peter was Music Director of TVNZ's Praise Be programme, in which the Chorale participated, most recently in November 2011, in Levin, accompanied by Peter.

Peter was awarded the ONZM in 1997 for services to music. A loyal advocate, his contribution to the Chorale was celebrated in a Tribute Concert in May 2013, and he accepted the position of Patron in December 2017. He is a member of the Chorale's Music Selection Committee. 

From harmonium to the Wellington Town Hall: sixty years with Händel's Messiah

Patron, Peter Averi - organ and piano

Ellen Barrett: Rehearsal accompanist and singer

Musician and soloist Ellen Barrett has been deeply involved with the choir.  Originally a singer in one of the first concerts of the early Waikanae Chorale (forerunner of the Kāpiti Chorale) under conductor Lois McNeill, she was our treasured rehearsal pianist for many years until her retirement in November 2017, and was frequently a soloist in our concerts. 

Born in Wellington, Ellen studied singing with Maxwell Fernie while attending Victoria University.  Since moving to the Kāpiti Coast she has been in demand for concert, oratorio and recital work.  She also maintains a busy teaching schedule.

As well as accompanying us on the piano, she also taught us much about voice production and control during rehearsal warm-ups.  Her skills as accompanist, and in particular as rehearsal pianist, are keenly sought by various groups on the Coast and her sensitivity and support are much valued by the Kāpiti Chorale. Ellen is a member of the Chorale's Music Selection Committee.

Ellen Barrett

Marie Brown, M.Phil. (Music)

Marie has a Master of Philosophy (Music) majoring in violoncello performance, a BA in French and Music, ATCL Piano Performance and a Diploma of Teaching.  Her work in the Primary sector as Music Director of Artsplash 2002 to 2005, as a secondary school teacher where she directed award-winning choirs in The Big Sing, as the inaugural Music Director of the Wellington Youth Choir, as Deputy Conductor of the Orpheus Choir and Music Director of the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in 2006 bears witness to her success in making music with all ages and abilities.

When not conducting, Marie is involved in things French.  Following her three years as President of the Alliance Française de Wellington, in 2006 she was awarded the prestigious Palmes Académiques by the French Government, and in 2010 she was made a Chevalier de l'Ordre National du Mérite.  In 2011 she formed the Alliance Française Voix de Femmes, a women's choir with a special interest in French and New Zealand composers.

Marie was a Director of the Board of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.

Since her appointment as Music Director of the Kāpiti Chorale in 2005, the choir flourished, advancing in standard and repertoire.  In the progression from strength to strength under Marie's leadership, the choir enjoyed the challenge of exciting contemporary works such as Karl Jenkins' The Armed Man and Stabat Mater, and the entertaining 100 Years of Broadway, whilst also excelling at traditional sacred music and opera choruses.  In 2011, the choir was filmed by TVNZ Praise Be, accompanied on organ by Peter Averi, resulting in four accomplished recordings.  A professional recording was made of the choir's performance in May 2013, a 30th Anniversary Tribute concert to Peter Averi, featuring Mozart's Mass K. 317.  The choir is justifiably proud of this CD production, a lasting testimony of Marie's cherished legacy with the Kāpiti Chorale.

Relocating to Auckland, Marie conducted her final concert with the Kāpiti Chorale in August, 2013.  At the reception afterwards, she was warmly farewelled, and awarded Life Membership to the Kāpiti Chorale in recognition of distinguished achievements, skill, and inspiration as Music Director.

On Queen's Birthday 2014, Marie was most deservedly awarded Member New Zealand Order of Merit for services to music. The Kāpiti Chorale is thrilled to acknowledge and congratulate our former Music Director.

Marie Brown, M.Phil. (Music)