Godfrey Hewitt

(John Lemuel) Godfrey Hewitt. Organist, choirmaster, composer, teacher, b Cudworth, Yorkshire, England, 4 Jul 1909, d Ottawa 30 Aug 2002; FRCO 1930, honorary ARSCM 1969, D MUS (Cantuar) 1973. After lessons in Leeds with A.C.

Hewitt, Godfrey

(John Lemuel) Godfrey Hewitt. Organist, choirmaster, composer, teacher, b Cudworth, Yorkshire, England, 4 Jul 1909, d Ottawa 30 Aug 2002; FRCO 1930, honorary ARSCM 1969, D MUS (Cantuar) 1973. After lessons in Leeds with A.C. Tysoe, he studied 1929-31 at the College of St Nicholas in Chislehurst, where he won the Lafontaine Prize (1930) and, as archbishop's scholar, was organist 1930-1 at Lambeth Palace. He declined an appointment as assistant organist at Westminster Abbey to accept one as organist-choirmaster at Christ Church Cathedral, Ottawa, where he served from September 1931 until 1980. He then held a similar position at St Barnabas Anglican Church, Ottawa, until his retirement in 1987. Hewitt maintained a high musical standard at both churches, in his teaching, and in his appearances as recitalist (in the 1970s often with his daughter Angela) and accompanist (for the Canadian Centennial Choir, among other groups and soloists).

From the beginning of his career at Christ Church Cathedral, Hewitt introduced much contemporary music, for organ and for choir, by such composers as Britten, Duruflé, Kodály, Langlais, Peeters, and Vierne. His own descants, hymn tunes, and settings for choir and congregation of music for matins, evensong, and a short communion service were frequently performed at the cathedral and elsewhere.

As a soloist, he performed across Canada and the USA and was probably best known as a Bach interpreter, a tradition passed on to his daughter. He directed 1970-80 the Cathedral Concert Series, which sponsored such organists as Lionel Rogg, Marie Claire Alain, and Gillian Weir. At St Barnabas he designed a baroque organ of 29 stops built by Casavant in 1980. In 1973 Hewitt received the Lambeth Degree (D MUS) from the archbishop of Canterbury. He was named a Member of the Order of Canada in 1976. In 2000 he was honoured with Ottawa's Mayor's Award for distinguished service and dedication to the arts. His organ students included Frances Macdonnell and Stefan Anderson; these and several of his choristers such as Robert Cooper and Ned Hanson have pursued careers in choir conducting. Angela Hewitt's recording of transcriptions of Bach (Hyperion 2001) is dedicated to her father, who chose three chorale preludes for the project. His compositions continue to be performed by the Christ Church Cathedral Choir in Ottawa.


Further Reading

  • Shenton, Kenneth. "Godfrey Hewitt: Last of the gentlemen cathedral organists," Independent, 11 Sep 2002