Musical tribute and fundraiser in memory of much-loved Bedford teacher

Peter Guthrie
Peter Guthrie

A fitting musical tribute took place in Bedford for a much-loved local teacher and musician, who died aged 92.

Ten members of the saxophone ensemble Plural Sax put on an afternoon concert to celebrate Peter Guthrie, his love of the saxophone and his musical contribution to the group.

The concert was held at St Andrew’s Church to remember Peter, who died in April.

Upon hearing the news of Peter’s passing in April, it was quickly decided by his fellow saxophonists that a fitting tribute would be a fundraising concert in aid of the Gurkha Welfare Trust and St Andrew’s Church, two organisations Peter had great affinity with. Plural Sax entertained around 80 people with Peter’s music, some travelling long distances to pay tribute to the great man.

A raffle which was supported by many local businesses including Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Pilgrim’s Progress, Tesco, Costa Coffee, Pizza Express, The Park Pub and Kitchen, Waitrose, Sainsburys and The Pheasant Pub, along with a retiring collection, raised £530.22.

Peter was born in Bedford in 1925 and joined the Royal Marines at the age of 14 as a Band Boy. His first commission at the age of 18 was aboard HMS Cumberland where he visited The Bay of Bengal and Indian Ocean before returning to the UK in 1945.

It is believed that during this first commission with the Royal Marines, Peter worked alongside the Gurkhas to whom he developed great respect for their determination, hard work and loyalty, which Peter valued highly throughout his life.

In 1947 to 1948 Peter served on HMS Theseus where he visited various ports along with Australia and New Zealand and in 1948 to 1950 he served on HMS Devonshire where he visited The Mediterranean and West Indies. Peter’s final commission was in 1950 where he served on HMS Belfast for two years visiting Korea, Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore before he was medically discharged from service, having worked his way up to bandmaster.

While Peter was in hospital, he met his wife-to-be Kathleen, with whom he returned to Bedfordshire, where they married and settled with their children. He taught music as a peripatetic teacher before taking up a teaching position in music at Bedford School and then at Kimbolton School where he worked until his retirement.

In the late 1990s, one of Peter’s former students from Kimbolton School introduced him to The Cambridge Saxophone Ensemble, a new saxophone-only group comprising a wide range of different-sized saxophones, which had recently formed at the university. Peter relished the opportunity to play his big bass saxophone in such a large group and to contribute some of his arrangements of classical works, some with the ink still wet as he turned up to the weekly rehearsals.

After a couple of years, some of the players moved to Oxford University and a new ensemble, Plural Sax, was born, with Peter providing the musical foundation to the group. Peter’s collaboration with the players lasted for well over 20 years with periodic concerts taking place in Cambridge, Oxford and also Kimbolton School.

A spokesman for the group said: “Peter’s final meeting with Plural Sax was last November, for what was to be his last toot. After a pint in the pub (or two in the case of Peter) it was clear to the group that even at the grand age of 92, once sat back in front of his music and with his bass in his hand, Peter hadn’t lost his ability to bring a smile to his fellow musicians. He was still more than capable of bringing his mighty saxophone, and his music, to life.

“Thanks to everyone who came, took part and who gave generously.”