Peter was born on St Cecilia’s Day in Minehead, Somerset. He started playing the organ at St Michael’s Minehead and nearby Luccombe and continued at Blundell’s School, gaining a scholarship to the Royal College of Music and then the Organ Scholarship at Jesus College, Cambridge. At Cambridge, he conducted the Cambridge Singers where he met his future wife Patricia Matthews (Pat).
He was appointed Master of Music at St Albans Cathedral in 1958. Within six months he had persuaded the Dean’s Council to rebuild the Harrison and Harrison organ and helped raise the funding through recital tours of the USA and Canada in churches dedicated to Alban.
The new St Albans Cathedral organ was designed by Peter and Ralph Downes. Two months before the dedication of the organ in 1962, Peter and Pat went to Geneva where Peter had previously played in an organ competition. Here they talked about how best to celebrate the new organ and drafted a plan for an organ competition in St Albans on the back of a coffee till receipt. So was the International Organ Festival (IOF) conceived… once described by Peter as “a week’s fun with a lot of serious thought and teaching thrown in”.
In the 1960s and ‘70s Peter combined his job at the Cathedral with a burgeoning international recital career and – together with Pat – nurturing the rapidly growing IOF. He was also active as a composer of organ and choral music. After stepping down from St Albans Cathedral in 1978, Peter enjoyed a successful career as a recital organist and recording artist. He recorded the complete organ works of Bach to critical acclaim for Decca and the BBC and performed them at 15 concerts for the 1997 Edinburgh Festival.
Peter retired in 2000. Throughout his career he remained wedded to the belief that the organ deserved its place alongside other orchestral instruments. “I am a musician who plays the organ; I don’t just play for organ buffs,” he said. “The instrument is capable of as much finesse as the violin.”