'What makes me happy? It's obvious... music!'

Peter Stobart is Artistic Director of Cork International Choral Festival. The festival runs online from April 28 to May 2.  Here he talks about family, work and life's loves in our 'Person to Person' feature
'What makes me happy? It's obvious... music!'

Peter Stobart is Artistic Director of Cork International Choral Festival. The festival runs online from April 28 to May 2.

Tell us about yourself;

I was born in the north of England and came to Cork via London. I took up the position of Director of Music at St Fin Barre’s Cathedral five years ago and I’ve been with the Cork International Choral Festival since the beginning of 2020.

My primary interest and specialism is in Choral Conducting and I have led choirs of all ages, sizes and abilities in the past. Much of my current focus is sacred music but the Festival is allowing me to look at the broader choral picture which I am enjoying hugely.


I live with my fiancée Denise. My parents and sister are all over in North Yorkshire.

Peter Stobart and fiancée Denise.
Peter Stobart and fiancée Denise.

Best friend?

My fiancée, Denise, is definitely my closest friend. We’ve been together for all of my time here in Cork.

Earliest childhood memory?

Nothing specific springs to mind, really. I remember being persuaded into joining the local church choir by my parents when I didn’t really want to, but loving it after only a couple of weeks.

Who would you like to see as Minister for Finance and why?

I wouldn’t be able to name a specific person, but someone who can appreciate the value of the arts within society and understand that they are expensive to support and don’t necessarily fund themselves. However spending money on them isn’t wasting money and just because the effects can’t always be quantified easily on paper, doesn’t mean that the long term benefits are not valuable.

Where was your most memorable holiday?

I spent a month in China for two consecutive years, and although I was running a children’s choir there, it wasn’t all work. I drank a lot of green tea and bought a lot of silk ties. I called into Hong Kong for a few days on my way back and basked in extremely humid temperatures of almost 40 degrees.

Favourite TV programme?

I have never owned a television and I never feel that I’m missing out when people ask me if I have watched a particular programme. I try and keep in touch with the news through my phone.

Favourite radio show?

Again, I’m not an avid radio listener, but I know that the local Cork radio stations are great for reflecting what’s going on locally and they have been very supportive of the festival, which I am grateful for.

Your signature dish if cooking?

I do a mean beans on toast!

Favourite restaurant?

I have to confess that I pay a visit to The Flying Enterprise several times during the week for my traditional Irish dinner.

Last book you read?

A Bigger Message: Conversations with David Hockney by the art critic and journalist Martin Gayford. Hockney and I went to the same school, although we were fifty years apart, and I have been used to seeing his artwork in the local gallery which bears his name. I went to his exhibition at the Royal Academy of Art in London a few years ago where he was showing pictures which he had made using the iPad. They were often of trees and other rural scenes and many were from back home, although he has spent much of his life in California and more recently in Normandy.

Peter Stobart is Artistic Director of Cork International Choral Festival. The festival runs online from April 28 to May 2.
Peter Stobart is Artistic Director of Cork International Choral Festival. The festival runs online from April 28 to May 2.

Best book you read?

I wouldn’t want to narrow it down to just one, and similarly I can never give a definitive answer if I am asked to name my favourite composer. I almost never read fiction. I prefer biographies (usually of dead people), or history, art or music.

Last album/CD/download you bought?

It may seem strange but I so rarely listen to music at home. 

The live experience has always been preferable to me and the predictability of knowing that a recording will always the same doesn’t excite me at all. 

I also find that if there is music on in the background, I lose the ability to multitask. I either give it all of my attention, or I don’t hear it at all as I’m concentrating on doing something else.

Favourite song?

I always remember hearing for the first time the Strauss Four Last Songs in a lecture at university and being bowled over by third one in particular Beim Schlafengehen. I think the recording featured the late Jessye Norman whose voice is perfect for that repertoire.

One person you would like to see in concert?

I have always regretted not seeing the late Claudio Abbado conduct before he died, and I know that I had the chance to see him in London, and for some reason that escapes me now I didn’t take it.

Do you have a pet?

I don’t at the moment, although I grew up with dogs and have always preferred them to other domestic animals. Our neighbour has a dog which often comes over to us in search of a treat, and was last seen running out of the back door with half a lemon cake!

Your proudest moment?

In recent times I have been delighted to be able to contribute to the broad spectrum of music making in Cork, and my appointment at the Choral Festival is allowing me to be able to do this more and more.

Spendthrift or saver?

I once made a €400 taxi journey… 

Name one thing you would improve in your area in which you live?

It would be nice to eliminate the unmentionable mess left behind by dog owners which one can often see in the streets around St Fin Barre’s Cathedral.

What makes you happy?

Music is the obvious but correct answer to this one, and singing in particular is the most pure and human form of music making.

How would you like to be remembered?

I am more concerned that I make the right choices during life than actively planning a way of being remembered. 

If the former leads to the latter then so be it.

What else are you up to at the moment?

During the pandemic we have been doing some work on the house, or rather Denise has been doing most of the work and I have been keeping out of the way. At this time of year there has been a lot of work to do with the programming of the festival and liaising with the choirs, listening to the video submissions for the competitions.

This has been hugely enjoyable and rewarding, and of course it never stops as preparation for 2022 is already underway!

For the full programme or to book tickets see www.corkchoral.ie 

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