Report on an evening with Peter Wright on Monday 18 May 2009 – by David Sutton

Peter Wright1Thirty or so attended St Barnabas’ Church Woodford Green to hear Peter Wright talk, play the organ and listen to some CD’s which contained performances which were significant in his life and career as a musician. In the past, our ‘Evening with’ events have proved to be enlightening, stimulating and fun. This evening did not disappoint. Far from it.

Peter introduced himself as a lad brought up in a typical suburban household in North London with no particular musical pretensions. As is often the case, it was a series of events and circumstances which created the environment for his talent to surface and be nurtured. Peter gave us a fascinating tour of his life where influential school teachers played a very large part in determining his career path – E.T.Chapman at Highgate School for instance. His first job was organist and choirmaster at Highgate Parish Church and he was still there in his teens. He also was taught by Flor Peeters and, in his memory, he played one of those inimitable chorale preludes. JSB also was played, of course, and a chorale prelude was played which Peter did for his FRCO.

He thought he was originally destined for the opera scene but again circumstances eventually brought him to assist at Guildford (via Cambridge) and he was hooked on cathedral music from then on under Barry Rose’s influence. Peter pointed out Guildford was still a relatively ‘young’ cathedral then in the early 70’s and had no choir school as such. Barry’s drive and influence had created a choir of international significance in a remarkably short time. He played a CD of the cathedral choir singing a bit of Elgar with him on the organ.

After Guildford came Southwark, following in the wake of Harry Bramma. Peter has been there ever since and built on Harry’s foundations. At first it was difficult because the prime source of choristers, St Olave’s School, moved to Orpington, and he had to virtually start from scratch again. He must have learnt a thing or two from Barry Rose because there is now a thriving choir.

An evening of anecdotes, playing the organ and CD’s, chaired by Tim Storey, was finished off in the usual CLESO style with a sumptuous spread of nibbles washed down with wine – provided courtesy of the church catering team headed by Cynthia Storey. A huge ‘thank you’ is due to these lovely people and the church authorities for making us so welcome.

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