Peter Dickinson was born in Lytham St Annes, Lancashire, on 15 November 1934; went to Cambridge as Organ Scholar of Queens’ College; then spent three formative years in New York. After teaching in London and Birmingham, Dickinson was appointed first Professor of Music at Keele and founded the Music Department with its emphasis on American music and its electronic and recording studio. Previously George Pratt was a successful Director of Music, founding the Lindsay Quartet, named after the University’s first vice-chancellor. Dickinson’s tenure from 1974-84 brought many distinguished visitors to Keele – these included Aaron Copland, Steve Reich, Philip Glass; Sir Lennox Berkeley was an honorary professor; and the Duchess of Westminster was one of the presidents of the concert series. There were three professorships for American visitors and Leverhulme fellows, including Tim Souster who worked in the studio.

There are four full CDs of Dickinson’s music on Albany; three on Naxos; and six on Heritage of his music or performances. As a pianist he had a twenty-five-year partnership with his sister, the versatile mezzo Meriel Dickinson, who studied at what was then the Royal Manchester College of Music and in Vienna. Their CDs American Song and British Song are on Heritage as well as Dickinson’s recitals with violinist Ralph Holmes [recorded at Keele on 9 February 1981 in the former Walter Moberly Hall,] and with oboist Sarah Francis.
Peter Dickinson’s books include studies of Lennox Berkeley (two), Billy Mayerl, Aaron Copland, John Cage, Lord Berners, and Samuel Barber. He is also an Emeritus Professor of
the University of London, following six years at Goldsmiths in the 1990s, and is chair of the Bernarr Rainbow Trust. The BBC marked Dickinson’s 80 th anniversary by recording his Violin Concerto (Chlöe Hanslip) and Merseyside Echoes with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales/Clark Rundell. Those first recordings were released in 2015 along with earlier
recordings of Dickinson’s Piano Concerto (Howard Shelley) and Organ Concerto (Jennifer Bate) with the BBC Symphony Orchestra/David Atherton. A further CD of seven orchestral works with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales/Clark Rundell came out in 2016: Peter Dickinson: Words and Music, a collection of over fifty years of his writings, was published in the same year. Two CDs of chamber music will be out in 2018/19. Most of Dickinson’s music is published by Novello. See


His academic appointments have included the first Chair at Keele University (1974-84: now Emeritus) where he started the Department with its Centre for American Music; the first Chair at Goldsmiths College (1991-97: now Emeritus); he was Head of Music at the Institute of United States Studies, University of London from 1997-2004; and has lectured at many American universities.

Further information

Dickinson has been active as a pianist, notably in recitals, broadcasts and recordings through a twenty-five-year partnership with his sister, the mezzo Meriel Dickinson, who studied at the Royal Northern College in Manchester and with Hans Karg in Vienna. Her repertoire in opera ranged from Handel to Kurt Weill and Ivor Novello; the Dickinsons commissioned a number of British composers including Lennox Berkeley, Andrzej Panufnik, Gordon Crosse and Jonathan Harvey; and they became well-known at festivals and in broadcasts for presented recitals devoted to single composers such as Erik Satie, Charles Ives and Lord Berners as well as programmes based on settings of poets such as Auden, Joyce and E. E. Cummings. One of their most characteristic records is Rags, Blues and Parodies (Albany TROY 369) and Dickinson’s literary interests are reflected in settings of poets such as Auden, E. E. Cummings, Dylan Thomas and John Heath-Stubbs (all on Albany TROY 365) as well as Emily Dickinson, Philip Larkin and Stevie Smith. Dickinson is heard as a pianist, along with Eric Parkin, on Albany TROY 760 which also includes the famous Swedish soprano Elisabeth Söderström in The Unicorns.

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Peter Dickinson’s writings include the first book on Sir Lennox Berkeley (Thames1989, enlarged 2nd ed. Boydell 2003); a study of the popular pianist-composer Billy Mayerl (OUP 1999); Copland Connotations: Studies and Interviews (Boydell 2002); CageTalk: Dialogues with and about John Cage (University of Rochester Press 2006); and Lord Berners: Composer – Writer – Painter (Boydell 2008). Dickinson has written chapters for various books, dictionaries and periodicals; for over thirty years he was a regular contributor to BBC Radio 3; and is a critic on the Gramophone.