Harpenden church organist quits over choir politics

St Nicholas Church Harpenden

St Nicholas Church Harpenden - Credit: Archant

A long-standing Harpenden organist claims he has been ousted by resentful choir singers after a row over soloists.

Peter Hopkins

Peter Hopkins - Credit: Archant

Peter Hopkins has acted as musical director of the choir at St Nicholas Church for six years, accompanying on the organ and deciding the arrangements of songs.

But he claims mutterings from adults in the choir began this summer, with some better singers not happy with Peter’s policy of letting everybody sing.

He said: “I am an inclusive organist and I want everybody to sing, whether they are any good or not. It’s rather unfortunate in a church society, which should be inclusive, that there are a couple of ring leaders.

“I think they have generated difficulty and I don’t think that the way they have operated is very generous towards older people who come to the choir to enjoy it - not to have a whole lot of aggravation.”

The situation reached the point where Peter felt he had to resign from the paid position: “I think in any institution decisions need to be made and stuck to, and not everybody will be happy.

“You cannot make decisions that will be popular with everybody at all times. I thought, ‘if they are not going to support me then I will resign’.

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“I have been doing it for six years - it’s a question of whether people just get on with it or not, which they have been doing and for the most part, it’s fine.”

He says specialist organists are hard to come by, and the church will struggle to replace him.

Reverend Canon Dr Dennis Stamps said he was only aware Peter chose to leave the part-time position because of personal commitments, and the church was very sad about the decision.

“In any church choir there will always some tensions because human beings are human beings, but there’s no sense that the church pushed him out and there was never any conversation with him to ask him to leave. I am not aware of any problems that forced him to leave, we have done everything to support him, and in terms of managing the contract we never suggested he leave.”

An announcement during the Sunday service said: “During his time with us, Peter has overseen continued growth in choir numbers, particularly in relation to our junior choir. We are very grateful to Peter for his musical contribution and we thank him for his commitment and support.”