Music man who has kept city's choristers in good voice for three decades
DASHING from the organ stool to the centre of the aisle, Peter Gould was ready for the biggest day of his life.
Moments earlier, he had played the keys of Derby Cathedral's organ, the sounds of the classical repertoire spreading through every inch of the ancient building.
Out of the 6,000 services he has played, including playing for the Queen, this one, in 1983, was one of his more personal services – it was his own wedding.
Yet despite it being his special day, Mr Gould was not nervous.
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He recalls: "I played the organ before Dorothy arrived. I left the organ and stood in my place, ready.
"I wasn't nervous because I've done it so many times before. I did it so I could say that I had played the organ on my wedding day."
Canon Peter Gould, who is now 60, has been an organist and choirmaster since 1970, beginning at St Margaret's, Putney.
He moved to Bradford Cathedral as an organ scholar and then to Wakefield Cathedral, where he was assistant organist for nine years.
He was appointed to begin at Derby Cathedral in September 1982 but delayed his term until the start of the following year as he was involved in organising a prestigious concert at Huddersfield Town Hall.
He says: "I saw the job advertised and, after being an assistant for nine years, I decided I wanted to run the ship myself. I was getting itchy feet.
"For the job audition, I had to take a choir practice. There were six other candidates for the job. The choristers decided who they wanted and I think I got the majority vote."
It was on January 1, 1983, at the age of 30, when he took his first choir practice but, on arriving, Mr Gould had a few big changes to make. He reverted the all-adult choir to a traditional male choir, sacking the female choristers. One of them, Dorothy, now 55, was to become his wife.
He said: "I pronounced to them that they would soon become the voluntary choir, effectively sacking them from their present position.
"Unbeknown to me at the time, my future wife was one of those choristers but she obviously forgave me as I proposed two months later and we married in October 1983."
As well as playing the organ on his own wedding day with four other organists, he was in charge of conducting the choir as well.
He says: "You cannot form a choir overnight. It takes years. They weren't particularly good in that October. I wish we could have our wedding again so the choir I have now could sing for me. They are a very high standard."
He even went on to play the organ at his daughter Anna's wedding in October last year.
"I played the organ before the bride arrived. I've got to keep up the tradition," he says. "But I couldn't play too much as I had to conduct the choir and lead her down the aisle."
Mr Gould leads the Cathedral's choir, made up of boys and men. He also leads the Cathedral's girls' choir.
He says: "I reckon I've seen at least 200 boys go through the choir and probably just over 100 girls. The girls range from ten to 18 and boys from seven to 13.
"Some of them have gone on to do great things. One is an organist at Oxford University and another is at Leicester Cathedral. I'm very proud of them and pleased that my enthusiasm has rubbed off."
He confides that one of the hardest parts about finding choir members is making sure they are fully committed.
"We rehearse three to four times a week and that's quite a chunk of their life," he says. "I'm really demanding and want them to give 100%.
"Not only is it the commitment of rehearsals, twice on a Sunday and Thursday, but it's also sight reading to learn pieces they have never sung before. The aim is to not only get better but to maintain standards over the years."
Mr Gould travels to schools across the county to scout out new choristers. He says: "I hear some lovely voices but people don't take it up because they don't have the time.
"It's always a replenishing choir as it changes when the children grow up. The music is a variety, some of which spans back 300 to 400 years. It's a marvellous opportunity for them.
"They sang the Messiah over Christmas. This is music they will remember for the rest of their lives."
He has seen many different faces in the choir, with whom he has shared some fantastic experiences.
"When a service has gone well and I feel the choir have done well, there's a real sense of achievement," he says.
"The big occasions are always good. We performed for Songs of Praise and played at St Paul's Cathedral as well as at Notre Dame, in Paris.
"Meeting the Queen for the Maundy service three years ago must be ranked up there.
"I shook her hand, which was fantastic. We sang seven anthems, a psalm and a couple of hymns and the Cathedral was packed. I've had some marvellous opportunities."
Mr Gould taught part-time as a music teacher at junior schools across Derby for more than 30 years and retired from his role at Derby High School last summer. Now he is focused on choir rehearsals, recitals, composing his own music and examining.
He has set himself an even bigger challenge for his retirement – to play every organ in the Derby Diocese, which consists of more than 300 churches – in the next two years.
He says: "It's something different and has never been done before in Derby. I'm hoping to raise the profile of music and the organs within the churches and raise some money for the Cathedral."
A service was held at Derby Cathedral on Saturday evening to honour Mr Gould's 30 years of service.
"They did a This is Your Life type of thing for me," he says. "It went very well. There were a couple of hundred people there, including some faces from the past. There was music from the choir and a meal, which was lovely."
The Dean of Derby, Dr John Davies, says: "What we see and hear today is his creation, with the help over many years of organist Tom Corfield and many friends.
"Peter's sheer energy, his love of music, his search for excellence, his total focus, his distinctive laugh – all this is a blessing to us."