OBITUARY: Peter Craddock

The inspirational conductor devoted his life to music and worked with classical stars '“ but nurtured local talent and '˜changed lives'

By The Newsroom
Saturday, 4th November 2017, 8:33 am
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 9:59 am
Peter Craddock, who has died aged 81, was the founder of Havant Symphony Orchestra
Peter Craddock, who has died aged 81, was the founder of Havant Symphony Orchestra

THE founder and conductor of Havant Symphony and Havant Chamber Orchestras, Peter Craddock, died peacefully after a long illness.

Peter, 81, obtained his bachelor of music degree at Leeds University, before gaining his teaching diploma at the University of Reading.

This included teaching practice at Barton Peveril Grammar School, Eastleigh, where he met his future wife, Sandra.

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In 1958 Peter became the first head of music at Havant Grammar School. His teaching career later included positions at Portsmouth Polytechnic (now University) and South Downs College.

Invited to form Havant Symphony Orchestra in 1962 as a further education class, the Havant Chamber Orchestra then morphed three years later after a series of chamber recitals were so popular with players that they asked to do more.

Both orchestras cemented their positions in regional musical life and at this busy time, Peter also conducted Portsmouth Choral Union.

Peter had a deep musical knowledge and his programming was always ambitious and challenging for players and audiences.

Peter, of West Street, Havant, explored the full breadth of musical repertoire – from great classics to obscure 20th century composers and notable commissions.

He encouraged young people to develop their talents – from players and aspiring conductors and myself too.

One conductor was 20-year-old Simon Rattle who wielded the baton for a memorable concert in 1975.

The orchestra’s president, Bob Harding, inspired Peter to create a bursary for young conductors, encouraging significant talents ever since like Mark Wigglesworth, who have gone on to significant international careers.

An equally impressive roll-call of soloists incorporated not only world famous names including Nigel Kennedy, but also excellent local musicians like pianist Karen Kingsley and clarinettist Robert Blanken.

His rehearsals became known for wit and repartee – once I was carrying a piano concerto score for a pre-concert lecture and Peter suggested, ‘When you’ve finished, would you mind showing it to the soloist?’

Peter received great support from Sandra, together running the orchestras with efficiency and imagination.

After retirement, in 2014 Peter was recognised for his achievements with a British Empire Medal.

Outside musical activities, Peter was a redoubtable tennis player and had expert knowledge of moths, butterflies, and wildlife generally.

Peter’s achievements were outstanding, enhancing the cultural richness of our communities – he literally changed peoples’ lives for the better.

He is survived by Sandra, their three daughters, and three grandchildren.

Peter’s funeral takes place on Tuesday at The Oaks Crematorium, Barton’s Road, Havant, at 3.15pm. All are welcome.

His family have requested donations be made to Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, instead of flowers.

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n Peter Craddock, born May 24, 1936, died, October 14, 2017.