Bath Abbey has announced that its long-standing Director of Music, Dr Peter King, is to retire in August this year.
Dr King has been with the Abbey as Director of Music since 1986, and has been described by colleagues as a “most distinguished holder of the post.” Under his leadership, the music programme of the Abbey has been expanded to include new choirs, including our Abbey Girls’ Choir. His work has featured regularly on BBC Radio 3 and BBC TV, as well as numerous record releases, and has helped raise the profile of the Abbey and our music programme for over a generation.
On the announcement, Reverend Prebendary Edward Mason, the Rector of Bath Abbey, said:
“It is with no small measure of sadness that I learned of Peter’s decision to retire. Peter has been Director of Music at the Abbey since 1986 and has been a most distinguished holder of this important post.
“Peter has been a pillar of the Abbey and we will be very sad to see him leave. We will pray for him as he adjusts to a new future, and ask all friends of the Abbey to join us in this.
“He is a superb organist in his own right as well as being a creative and inspirational director of the choirs.
“We will concentrate on sustaining the excellence he has instilled in us all, and we will seek to build on all that has he has achieved over thirty years.”
Announcing his decision to colleagues at the Abbey, Dr King said:
“During my time there have been many changes. The building of the new organ by Johannes Klais of Bonn, and the establishment of the Girls’ Choir, both in 1997, are just two achievements that have made me particularly happy, along with the development of the Boys’ Choir. Having been a choir boy myself, it has been equally important for me to maintain the tradition of a boys’ choir. Both the organ and the Girls’ Choir were quick to establish themselves as among the finest in the country.
We have produced 8 albums with our choirs, and 12 on the organ; my Organ Concerto album with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales was Editor’s Choice in both Gramophone Magazine and BBC Music Magazine. My recording of Poulenc’s Organ Concerto was the recommended performance in the “Building A Library” segment of BBC Radio 3’s CD Review last December, which along with the performance our choirs gave on the BBC One’s Christmas Day Service, made for a very nice Christmas!
“However, we have always looked to the future. Working with Shean Bowers, I helped establish the Schools Singing Programme which has brought the joy of the sung voice to a generation of children in Bath’s schools, and I am proud of the hard work Shean has put into it to make it the success it is.
“My brain says it is time to stop, though my heart hurts. Though I may be retiring as the Abbey’s Director of Music, I will not be retiring from music.”
Reverend Mason and Dr King will be working closely to maintain the programme of Music and live events, and to start the process of appointing a successor.
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A former student of Dame Gillian Weir and Allan Wicks (Organ), and Ronald Smith (Piano), Peter King was appointed Director of Music at Bath Abbey in 1986. Under his direction the Abbey Choir has visited Germany, Holland and France, and has released eight CDs and broadcast on BBC TV and Radio 3. In 1997 Peter started a Girls’ Choir at Bath Abbey; it quickly established itself as one of the finest of such choirs. Together with Nicolas Kynaston, Peter was responsible for the design and installation of the Abbey’s Klais Organ. His 8 CDs with Bath Abbey Choir and his 12 CDs on the new abbey organ have been highly acclaimed by the critics.
Peter was Assistant Chorus Director to the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra during all of Sir Simon Rattle’s reign as Musical Director and he still plays the organ regularly with the orchestra. He plays on Rattle’s EMI recordings of Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony and Symphony of a Thousand. Recent work has included concerts all over Europe; highlights have included recitals at Ingolstadt Minster, Cologne Cathedral, Grote Sint Laurence Kerk, Alkmaar, Michaelis Kirche, Hamburg, St Thomas, 5th Avenue, New York, King’s College, Cambridge, St Paul’s Cathedral & Westminster Abbey, an opening recital on the new organ in Palacio Euskalduna, Bilbao, and Birmingham, where he played at the opening of the new Organ in Symphony Hall. Other engagements have included solo appearances with the CBSO (Saint-Saëns Organ Symphony) and The Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields (Poulenc’s Organ Concerto). His recitals at the Bath Mozartfest have been broadcast on BBC Radio 3. Peter King holds the honorary degree of Doctor of Music from the University of Bath.
In 2015 Peter took up the office of President of the Incorporated Association of Organists (IAO).