St Albans Organ Festival pays tribute after death of its founder

Peter Hurford, the founder of St Albans International Organ Festival, has died age 88. Picture: St A

Peter Hurford, the founder of St Albans International Organ Festival, has died age 88. Picture: St Albans International Organ Festival - Credit: Archant

The founder of the St Albans International Organ Festival is remembered for his contribution to music following his death this week.

Peter Hurford OBE, an internationally renowned concert organist and recording artist, died on Sunday, March 3 at the age of 88, after a long illness.

Peter was born in Minehead, Somerset on November 22, 1930, which is also St Cecilia’s Day - the patron saint of musicians. He studied music and law at Jesus College, Cambridge and became organist at Holy Trinity in Leamington Spa in 1956.

He moved to St Albans in 1958, where he was appointed Master of Music at the Cathedral and, over the next few years, persuaded the Cathedral to replace its organ and played a major part in its redesign.

In 1963 Peter founded the St Albans International Organ Festival with his late wife, Pat. His aim was to introduce more people to the pipe organ as an instrument, and to make young participants in the festival’s two organ competitions feel welcome in the community.

After 20 years at the Cathedral, Peter left to pursue a freelance performing and recording career which took him all around the world. He appeared as a visiting professor at universities, both at home and abroad, and has been artist-in-residence at Sydney Opera House and president of the Royal College of Organists.

He also won awards and international recognition for his recordings of the complete works of Johann Sebastian Bach.

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Peter lived in St Albans for the rest of his life, teaching leading performers, and his picture is hung on the local ‘wall of fame’ at the St Albans Museum + Gallery.

The 30th St Albans Organ Festival will take place this July, which festival chair Lesley King described as “a lasting testament to his vision”.

She said: “With the death of Peter Hurford, St Albans has lost someone who made a difference in many people’s lives at an individual level, brought pleasure to thousands at home and abroad through his music making, and raised the profile of the city through the high standing in which the festival he founded is held around the world.

“He will be greatly missed.”

Peter will have a private family funeral, and a memorial event will be held at St Albans Cathedral, the details of which are yet to be announced.