40 years

Choir Information Pete

All About Pete

What is your earliest musical memory?

My Mum is a beginner piano teacher, so being around lots of piano lessons, older children coming to my house and then starting myself!

What role has music played in your family?

My Dad isn’t musical at all, but my Mum was and my grandparents on her side were too. They encouraged (or rather forced me as I didn’t know any better!) to audition to be a chorister at Westminster Abbey. Nowadays in my family up in Manchester, my girlfriend, Christina and I are both professional musicians, she plays the violin, so music is pretty much 24/7 here! Even my dog, Toby, loves to howl along to Christina’s violin practice!

When did you decide to make music your career and why?

I consider myself extremely lucky in life to be making a living doing something that I don’t really consider to be work, but a hobby! I guess when I was 18 at school I had to decide whether to do maths or music at university. I talked to many people about this and music won!

What do you hope to achieve in your musical activities?

I don’t really have any life goals as such, I’m very happy doing what I do right now, playing for 3 choirs, conducting one, playing for singing lessons and all sorts of other things at the RNCM and teaching. There are a few pieces of music on my bucket list that I need to learn to play properly, and I guess I’d love to play either Rachmaninoff piano concerto 2 or 3 with an orchestra one day!

What musical instruments do you play and to what level?

I play piano professionally, a bit of organ professionally too but not so much. I got up to grade 6 on violin and then switched to viola when I was in my teens. I have a grade 1 in classical guitar that I took in my early 20s for charity!

What do you like and/or dislike about playing musical instruments?

I can’t really home in on what I like about playing instruments, I guess it satisfies the creative part of my brain. Dislike, I’d say having to play music that I don’t like!

What makes a good choirmaster and conductor in your view?

Interesting question! I’d say it starts with having a great ear and a great brain!

What do you want from the people you rehearse and conduct?

To be on the ball and for me never have to repeat where we’re going from! Wishful thinking perhaps!

What gives you the greatest pleasure musically and why?

Harmony and live performance. Harmony makes music what it is to me, and you can’t beat the buzz of live performance and playing great music to a paying audience, however big or small

In what way(s) would you like to progress musically?

Haha, my right hand 5th finger sometimes moves around too much when I play my right hand 4th finger, it shouldn’t!

What is your favourite genre of music and why?

Late 19th century and first half of 20th century Russian, French and English music, choral, orchestral, piano and song. I love the late romantics!

What is your favourite piece of music and why?

Joint top at the moment. Harris – Faire is the Heaven, and Rachmaninoff Symphony number 2 movement 3, leaning towards the latter.

Who is your favourite composer and why?

Depends what mood I’m in! can’t possibly pick one I’m afraid!

Who is your favourite performer and why?

I can’t say I have one really. I always found the improvisation of Martin Baker inspiring (Martin Baker was Sub-organist at Westminster Abbey when I was there and then acting master of the choristers after Martin Neary got sacked).

Which is your favourite performing space and why?

Westminster Abbey, amazing acoustic and obviously very nostalgic for me

Is there any type of music you don’t like, and if so, why?

Again, depends what mood I’m in. Anything that I consider simple I would say I find frustrating – controversial I know, but Mozart and Beethoven are most often guilty of this in my book, with exceptions of course! All popular music nowadays must be included, although I guess I wouldn’t consider that music!

What is the biggest crime against music in your opinion and why?

Lots of options here! Karl Jenkins, Einaudi… anything along those lines. People shouting bravo at the end of a performance. 

Why is music important in your life?

If it wasn’t for music I’d have a really boring job and wouldn’t be anywhere near as happy! I met my girlfriend through music.

Why is music important in society?

How terrible would a world without music be?! All music! 

What is the future of music?

Ask me in the future! :)

What has been your greatest musical experience so far and why?

Singing at Diana’s funeral was a big one. Singing at the proms? Performing Rach 2 with my best friend playing the orchestral reduction (albeit in the humble setting of the RNCM in concerto auditions)

What would be your Desert Island Discs?

Rach 3 piano concerto

Rach 2nd symphony

Harris – Faire is the heaven

Durufle – Requiem

Too tough to chose others!

What would you like your musical legacy to be? (or, variation: What music-related inscription would you like on your headstone?)

Absolutely no idea, and it’s not really something I’ve ever thought about if I’m honest! I might have to say that my legacy outside of music would be more important to me than my ‘musical legacy’!

Are any other question about music you’d like to answer?

Nah, I’m done!!


Pete Durrant also plays for Stafford Choral Society and the St George’s Singers (Poynton), and is the conductor of Leek Choral Society.

Pete grew up in London where he was a chorister at Westminster Abbey. During his time at the Abbey, he toured worldwide and sang at many high profile events, including the funeral of Princess Diana. In 2004, he moved north to study music at The University of Manchester, where he learned piano with Tom Scott. He was awarded the Proctor Gregg prize for performance at the end of his second year. In 2010 he went on to complete a Masters in Piano Performance at the Royal Northern College of Music, studying with Jeremy Young and Colin Stone.

As well as his choral commitments, Pete now works in the RNCM and University of Manchester as a full time accompanist and is in demand as a piano, vocal and theory teacher in the south Manchester area.

In the past, Pete has been the accompanist of Manchester University Chorus, and has accompanied Manchester Chamber Choir, Unlimited Voices, the Hallé, Hallé Youth Choir, Hallé Training Choir and Hallé Children’s Choirs. He has worked with the BBC Symphony Orchestra Chorus and played for the BBC’s ‘Come and Sing’ Prom events as part of the BBC Proms ‘Choral Sundays’ at the Royal College of Music and at the Royal Albert Hall. Pete was also the conductor of The University of Manchester’s chamber choir Ad Solem.

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