Director of Music

Martin Penny MA(Oxon), FRCO, MCIM, MISM


I have been Director of Music here since September 2009, having previously been Organist since 1999.

I am enjoying working closely with the choirs and instumentalists, such talented and capable groups of musicians, and with the many other skilled people we are fortunate to have here. My predecessor, Chris Benham, runs a professional (and profitable) weekly lunchtime concert series. Proceeds from this are used to support our musical work with all in full-time education. As we are a large church we also host several major concerts every year.

We strive to provide a wide variety of musical support to enrich the worship and life of the church, but always performed to the very best standard that we can achieve.

We work hard at our musical outreach and have run many successful events since 2011, some aimed at youngsters and some for adults, including our regular, and popular, 'Come and Sing' events. Singers from across the town and beyond have performed Crucifixion Stainer, Requiem Faure and parts I and II of Messiah Handel as well as Choral Evensongs with evergreen favourites. Do come and try it!

We continue to expand our repertoire adding music from the 16th and 21st centuries (and most in between!).

Doing all this is only possible because of the strong team of colleagues I'm blessed with. These include my Assistant,John Norris, Sam Chadwick (Head of Music, St Nicholas School, Old Harlow), Chris Benham (Chapel Organist and Music Teacher, St Edmund's School, Ware, Natasha Page, (Former choral scholar and now building a career as a soloist), our 'Soundbites' Organ Scholar Michael Stephens-Jones, a number of other full-time/semi-professional musicians in the choir and my wife, Mary (Long-established teacher of Piano and Singing).

More about Martin

I have been working full-time as a freelance organist, choir director, teacher, examiner and lecturer since April 2002. I am Organist to the University of the Arts (a 'job-share' with Chris Benham). Mary and I have run a flourishing music business in Letchworth since 1982, with pupils ranging in age from under 7 to over 70. I am also an accredited teacher with the RCO Academy.

I was born in Lancashire and began playing the piano at the age of four, studying along with my sisters, Christine and Pamela. My father, Donald, worked for ICI and so we moved around the UK on a regular basis.

I took up the organ whilst singing in my local parish church choir, by then in the West Country. A move to the North East led to organ studies with Ronald Watson before spending four years with Conrad Eden at Durham Cathedral. During this period I ran the choir of a local church, played frequently at several others and sang as a deputy in the Cathedral.

I read Mathematics at Exeter College, Oxford, and was successively Choral Exhibitioner, Organist and locum Organ Scholar, being responsible for the training and direction of the choir in daily practices and four services each week. The choir included twelve boys from Christ Church Cathedral Choir School, six Choral Exhibitioners and six volunteers. Whilst I was at Oxford, my family moved again, this time to Hampshire, where my mother, Barbara, was finally in one place long enough to be able to take up a career as a lecturer in Home Economics.

I spent the next twenty-seven years working for a major IT company, combining this with work as an organist and choir director. I held a number of church posts in and around London, including St Peter's, Ealing where I met and married Mary, a professional singer, pianist and teacher, in 1980. Co-incidentally she hails from a village just outside Durham and her tutor for PGCE was Michael Frith (a former Director of Music here and also a pupil of Dr Eden)! I also wrote the majority of the keyboard entries for the Hamlyn Dictionary of Music, studied singing for several years with Linda Waltzer (changing from Baritone to Tenor in the process), and sang in several choirs and in opera.

Most musical activities were suspended for a period of five years due to increasing work pressure - culminating in the directorship of a major division of the UK firm, managing over 150 professional staff and a budget of circa 50million/annum in 1990.

As part of a long-planned career change back to music, I completely revised my musical skills between 1997 and 2003, studying with a number of distinguished teachers both in the UK and abroad, gaining my Fellowship of the Royal College of Organists and winning prizes for overall performance and for improvisation. In the course of my studies I furthered my passion for the music of the English Tudor period, post war developments in France and for contemporary English choral music. I feature as accompanist on a commercial CD of such music released in 2009.

Contact details

Martin can be contacted at All Saints' at or on 01462 677865 or 07984 374160

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